To the editor:
In his book, "So Human an Animal," Rene Dubos wrote, "We have changed the world faster than we can change ourselves." Our challenge is to prove Dubos wrong. Climate change offers humans a huge opportunity, but we will have to work together.
I believe, deep down, we all want the same thing: To live in peace, in freedom, without fear and with the sense that each one of us has something to contribute. We are a social animal, and as soon as we act on the understanding that we are alone we can put our heads together and move forward to solve problems.
Why is it so hard to change the way we think? Jared Diamond wrote, "The most difficult values to jettison are those that have helped us in the past." For many of us, the high school cheer "We Are No. 1" took root and nudged us into an "us vs. them" mentality that we never outgrew. Such an attitude is a great ego trip for winners, but it doesn't lead to ultimate happiness, a sense of wonder, of connection to nature and the peace that passes all understanding.
In the last year I have made an effort to reach out to people who think differently from me. It is not easy to find people who want to have substantive, honest, civil conversations about politics and religion, but I am grateful for those who have become my new friends. These conversations are challenging and difficult, but we have stayed in touch. I truly like these people.
Our media, in order to hold our attention, exploits our baser instincts and exaggerates our differences of opinion. The vitriolic nature of our political discourse is evident in our legislatures and courts. Each one of us can help reverse this trend by monitoring our own words, and by noticing the motives behind those who throw gas, not water, on our disagreements.
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We can also make an effort to celebrate the very fact that we don't agree. Our Founding Fathers, themselves in great discord about fundamental issues, devised a system that works only when the participants are willing to talk with each other. What's important is the spirit of approach, an optimism that the future will be even better than the past, a hope based on the goodness of the human heart.