Our opinions have narrowed so that anyone different is feared

To the Editor:

The right of individual independence, the ability to hold other views, is an essential component of freedom. But that’s not all of what democracy must be. It’s also our individual duty to foster and protect such rights for all.

It’s part of our basic social contract with each other, and identifies us as Americans. Which leads me to my primary point: The very thought of not being able to abide and dwell with each other is an erosion of everyone’s rights and protections.

Where is this fear and lack coming from that doesn’t permit a person to think of anything and anyone outside of their own preferences and bias? What will happen to our democratic foundations if we stop being responsive to and tolerant of each other? Illness as metaphor may help explain.

Kurt Goldstein, a 19th-Century medical doctor, observed that illness itself is the inability for a person, or any organism, to be responsive. Looked at in this way, illness is the inability of an organism to dwell in and respond to its environment in a vital and adequate way.

Socially, this definition of illness reflects our inability to accommodate difference. As seen in our own neighborhoods, and often expressed in The Enterprise these days, our opinions have so far narrowed to the point that anything or anyone different than us is feared, and a type of tribalism results.

Isolation deepens, we forget we are a part of a whole; and threat is ascribed to whoever and whatever isn’t like us, though we’ve never met or spoken to each other.

Let’s be clear: No one needs to forfeit their way of life, their individualism or beloved traditions to be bound to some altruistic universalism, be it conservative or progressive. Who are we to judge or disavow others’ rights and protections as long as laws are followed and there’s no violence, slander, or bigotry to another?

The COVID-19 pandemic shows we can foster a bigger capacity of heart and allow others to respond in kind.

And so, until simple tolerance and kindness are again consciously practiced, until we can once again freely abide and dwell with each other, our own alienation will increase as our democratic freedoms silently erode. If we don’t see the truth of our present conditions, we will remain alien to each other, and so much more alone.

R. S. Mason


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