As an organizational psychologist, one of the things that is of concern to me as I have perused social media and other media in the past few years isn’t the divide among right and left in political opinions, it’s the contempt that one side often shows for the other. I’d like to compare this state of affairs in U.S. politics (and this may be true of other Western democracies) to a marriage gone bad.
In the midst of all the coronavirus craziness and anxiety, I was searching for a good word to write about. My inspiration came from reading so many posts on social media about how people are coming together, many offering their personal strengths in order to benefit others.
There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation. — Herbert Spencer
“United we stand, divided we fall” is the paraphrase of a saying by John Dickinson, considered one of the “Founding Fathers” of the United States. In thinking about the politically divisive times in which we now live in this country, we would all do well to heed those words today.
I’ve been celebrating the month of November with Facebook posts about “gratitude” (see www.facebook.com/accentonwords). My favorite quote on the subject comes from American author Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Diversity, in its simplest sense, means variety. But in the last few decades it has taken on a political definition, encompassing ideas such as individual and group rights, inclusion, identity, multiculturalism, and social justice. Today, we hear terms that were not widely known even ten years ago, such as white privilege, microaggression, and intersectionality.
I approached today’s topic already supporting the need for freedom of speech in a democratic society (which puts me solidly in the camp with most Americans). But I was also curious about the reasons behind our society’s growing desire to punish hate speech. So I put on my research hat and started digging.
(October is National Bullying Prevention Month)
Words are powerful. Leaders use them to motivate their employees. Marketers use them to get the public to buy a company’s products and services. Christians and Jews believe that words blasted the universe into being. The right words can elicit a smile, offer encouragement, start a marriage, even transform a life. The wrong words can make someone cry, break someone’s heart, destroy a relationship, even start a war.