We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Saturday, May 15, 2021
#135 / Love Your Enemies
The title of this blog posting comes directly from the title of a book by Arthur C. Brooks, who is president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative (I'd call it "right-wing") think tank. I have reproduced the cover of the book at the bottom of this blog posting. The subtitle of Brooks' book is: "How Decent People Can Save America From The Culture of Contempt."
Of course, a reader interested in the "Love Your Enemies" topic might also want to consult the New Testament (Matthew 5:44), which is where Brooks got his title. I have a feeling that Martin Luther King, Jr. was quite familiar with that reference.
Generally speaking, I am not in the habit of reading books from authors associated with right-wing think tanks. However, I had just read the Amy Dickinson column I wrote about yesterday when I ran across Love Your Enemies in one of those "Little Free Libraries" that I search out and patronize.
Dickinson was arguing for her readers to consider potential "counter narratives," as they attempt to decide what to think about things, so I thought that maybe it would be good for me to listen to someone who comes from a different slice of the political spectrum. The Brooks' book was brand new, so I picked it up. The price was definitely right!
As it turned out, I enjoyed Brooks' book, which suggests various ways that individuals can help overcome the politics of polarity and division that increasingly characterize our national political life. Brooks is right that many of us have become contemptuous of those with whom we disagree, politically. This is not a good thing, and lots of people are worried, justifiably, about the state of our national political dialogue, including, for instance, New York Times' columnist Nate Cohn. Cohn's April 19, 2021, column was titled, "Why Political Sectarianism Is a Growing Threat to American Democracy." That column is worth reading, too, if you can penetrate The Times' paywall.
I was pleased to find that Brooks suggested a strategy that I have also advocated (though Brooks uses different words to describe it). "Talking To Strangers" is exactly the kind of thing that Brooks advocates, and he particularly emphasizes the importance of "telling a story" when we do that.
In the end, while I found Brooks' practical advice quite helpful, my most important takeaway came from Brooks' citation to something said by our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln, in his First Inaugural Address:
We are not enemies, but friends...
Let us not forget this.
Jesus' admonition, echoed by Brooks, is good advice. We do need to "love" those who appear to us in the guise of an enemy. But, in the end, because we are, inevitably, in this life together, we must recognize that "enemies" we are not. We are - and we must be - friends.
Are we different? Yes. Do we have different ideas and beliefs? Yes. We are different in many ways, but in the end we are friends, all of us privileged to be alive, just now.
The challenges we face, and they are grave challenges indeed, demand that we reach out now to each other as friends. We are together in this world at risk. Let us never forget it.
We must not be enemies.
(1) - https://www.amazon.com/Young-Refined-Inspirational-Educating-classrooms/dp/B074QHFL8N/ref=asc_df_B074QHFL8N/
(2) - Gary A. Patton personal photo