Honoring the Truth of Both Sides
On the immigration issue, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, reminds us that the way forward is not to determine who is right, but rather to appreciate the truth in both the conservative and the liberal approaches. The conservative approach honors the challenges of immigration while the liberal view appreciates the value and moral imperative of immigration.
When people with different customs, languages and world-views come into our communities, it reduces our level of social capital. We no longer have the automatic bonds of trust that come from common assumptions and behaviors. We have to work harder to see how our new neighbors are like us. The unconscious signals and meanings, so important to our sense of being at home with each other, have to be consciously recreated.
Over the past few years, Melissa and I have had the opportunity to travel in Europe, Scandinavia and Central America. We love these trips where we get to see other parts of the world and get a flavor of the local cultures and customs. We also have the privilege of leading meditation retreats when we travel. On these retreats, we get to see these differences melt away as we investigate the deeper currents of what it really means to be alive.
And as wonderful as our travel is, I must confess to a deep sense of relief when we come back home. Driving down Pleasant Street in Worcester, Massachusetts, I am flooded with a sense of familiarity. I am at home here and some deep part of my brain can relaxes. I don’t have to work as hard. Without thinking, I understand the signals and meanings of daily life.
One of the shocks of this election was the vivid awareness of the many people in this country who clearly don’t feel at home in the same America as I do. The cultural conversations about the unconscious power of racism, classism, misogyny and hetero-normative gender oppression make sense to me and feel to be essentially American. For many others, these conversations are simply for the urban intellectuals who sip skinny soy lattes and profit through the exclusion of everyone who does not live on the coasts or in a city.
It is the sense of alienation, disenfranchisement and fear that we need to address, even as we fight our new President to retain the foundations of our democratic institutions and our common sense of the verifiable realities that we share.
Immigration is a challenging issue for us all. I know very few people that say we should have completely open borders. There is a cost to immigration. There are dangers in bringing new people into our country. Even for those of us who see how much our country has benefitted from the energy, skills and vision of new citizens from foreign lands, must also publicaly acknowledge these costs and challenges.