Excerpt from Patriot: My Journey Through America’s Undeclared Civil War by Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.
So I’m in the coffee shop as usual getting my coffee and it is warm-ish and I’m annoyed.
The coffee shop is nearby the White House and two men in business suits are sitting and talking to each other. Each one has their own table and they’re talking across the tables, so loud.
The first man says to the second man that he has an appointment at the White House.
“Oh, really!” says the second.
At which point they start talking politics. “I come from California, where you can literally get in trouble just for following the law,” says A.
“I hear you,” says B. “I’m a Democrat, but many in my party don’t agree with the radical Left.”
“Been around for a lot of years and I remember when we used to go into a room and actually negotiate the legislation,” says A.
B sits there nodding, furiously.
They continue talking about bipartisanship, and how it’s missing, and we don’t understand how things have gotten so… polarized. I can’t help myself. I have to chime in: “It’s too bad we don’t have a camera crew here, a Democrat and a Republican talking bipartisanship.”
The look I get is not welcoming. They were having a guy-a-thon. But I press on, I don’t really care, and so I say to A: “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Do you think that the radicalization we’re seeing nowadays is organic, or is someone engineering it?”
“Oh, it’s not organic at all. You need to study the French Revolution.”
They continue talking and then they pack up and leave, and I’m left to ponder the state in which we now find ourselves. I get on social media and it’s like literally watching a parallel reality unfold in real time.
Who are all these people we’re seeing, in headline after headline, squabbling and attacking like chickens stuck together in a coop? What’s happened to the world I used to inhabit, where reality actually meant something, where facts were not debatable as artifacts of feeling?
I know, because I observe people carefully, that most people are wedded to the world of “normal”: They want no extremes. In fact, they want no problems with others.
But there are few—a very few, and they get literally all the headlines—who seem to want nothing but trouble. They aren’t healthy in the mind, but they know how to grab the spotlight. And, of course, they attract attention.
How do we get things back to normal? If I am to have any say in things at all, I would suggest that radicalism—of any kind—is not the way to go. Instead we can choose moderation.
The great Jewish sage Maimonides (1135–1204) famously advocated this, calling it the “golden mean.” How to restore moderation from radicalism? Adhere to an ethic of truth, not the moral posturing of political correctness.
Truth knows no ideology. It is not the world of villains and victors, but instead a space where close scrutiny yields complicated lessons to be learned.
We should stick to the truth and never waiver, said Maimonides, regardless of how popular (or unpopular) it makes us.
In Guide to the Perplexed, he wrote: “Truth does not become more true by virtue of the fact that the entire world agrees with it, nor less so even if the whole world disagrees.”
A thriving democracy rests on the ability to express strong differences vocally yet civilly. Those differences rest in fact. Maybe different interpretations of fact, but a belief in, and adherence to, the notion of objective reality nevertheless.
Discover the facts, and you discover the middle path.
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