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Fear, the air is thick with it right now.

And election season seems to exacerbate the problem. Stoking fear may be an effective way to mobilize people to get out and vote, but fear doesn’t seem quite as likely to bring people together to bring about long lasting positive change.

Fear presents a deceptively simple shortcut.

Drum up an enemy with a host of bad intentions on the other side and villainize those that support him. Then, whatever means necessary to defeat the enemy become palatable because the stakes are so high. The clarity is reassuring and purposeful.

You put out your yard sign, maybe do a little campaigning, and cast your vote. If your guy wins, you share in the glory, the joy of being on the right side. If he loses, well, you don’t have to feel like you didn’t do your part. Obviously, it is the villains on the other side who are to blame.

It’s easy to make villains and enemies and fight them instead of buckling down and doing the work you can do, where you can make a difference, and where, unfortunately, you might also fail.

Building bridges with people who aren’t already on your side is much riskier and more challenging work. It requires hearing things that may offend you, risking looking foolish or being ridiculed when you try and explain your political values. In the long run, however, it is the only way to live at peace with your neighbor. Building walls is not equivalent to living at peace with someone.

In the year 2020, when we have every reason to fear, I encourage you to do the harder, quieter, riskier work of bridge-building with people who seem impossibly far away from you. I suspect that when we dig into this riskier work, many of our values, desires, and outcomes are not as far apart as they might seem in this fearful state. And it’s the only way to lasting peace.

Photo by Djama on Adobe Stock

 

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