Hug a Republican (or Democrat) Today

Lynne McTaggart

All of us were left traumatized by the rampage shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford last Saturday, which left 13 others in the line of fire injured and six dead, including a 9 year old born on September 11, 2001.
Although President Barack Obama was credited with a moving bi-partisan speech at the Arizona memorial last week, the political repercussions of the event continue, with Democrats blaming Republicans for inflammatory language and Republicans blaming Democrats for exploiting the situation to leverage their own sagging political fortunes. 
Nevertheless, to lay the cause of the tragedy at the door of any single partisan cause — whether Sarah Palin, lax gun laws or too liberal democratic legislation — is entirely to miss the point.
This latest crisis is symptomatic of a deeper problem in America, with more potential repercussions than those of any single cataclysmic event.
The problem has to do with the very nature of how we have defined ourselves and our persistent need to categorize the elements of our world as some version of  ‘us’ vs ‘them.’
Increasing divides
It has particularly broken my heart because although I have lived in Britain for 25 years, I am – and always will be – an American.  Over all this time and from this transatlantic perspective, I have observed my country increasingly polarize — black against white, Christian against Muslim and now Democrat against Republican. And this largely stems from the same source — a tendency to insist on sameness — ‘people like me’ — in our lives.
In December 1989 Laura Chasin, a family therapist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was watching a rancorous debate on abortion between pro-choice and pro-life representatives. The argument reminded her of some of the same kind of behavior patterns she regularly dealt with in her practice with dysfunctional families.
She wondered if some of the techniques that proved effective in therapy could also be applied to people whose political or social views were polarized.
Chasin created the Public Conversation Project by enlisting women friends and acquaintances on both sides of the abortion issue to deepen their understanding of each other by changing the way they communicate.
She began holding meetings over buffet dinners, where the women could get to know each other before they disclosed on which side of the fence they stood.
Dialogue on differences
In subsequent meetings the women sat in a circle and took turns in a dialogue, revealing their personal stories about abortion, the events in their lives that helped to shape their beliefs, the aspects of the issue they still wrestled with. In total Chasin hosted eighteen sessions with more than a hundred different women.
Then, on December 30, 1994, when the pro-life advocate John Salvi shot dead two and wounded five others at the Brookline, Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood and nearby Preterm Health Services, six leading figures from the state’s pro-life and pro-choice movements, including the director of the Pro-life Office of the Archdiocese of Boston and Nicki Nichols Gamble, the director of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, decided that it was vital that the two sides continue the dialogue. The six women carried on meeting in secret for nearly six years.
Over time they learned to stop using inflammatory language such as “murder” and learned to “speak in love, speak in respect, and speak in peace,” no matter how wide their differences.
Both sides joined forces to announce that the head of ProLife Virginia, who reportedly had sanctioned Salvi’s action as a “righteous deed,” was not welcome in Massachusetts.
At a service to honor the memory of the two who had been killed in the Salvi shootings, Gamble expressed gratitude for the “prayers of those who agree with us and the prayers of those who disagree.” 
After the shootings, each group watched the other group’s back; the pro-life leaders, for instance, created a hotline system to alert the pro-choice leaders of the possibility of violence or physical danger.
Love across the table
At the end of the six years the group held a press conference, at which members of the press wanted to know who had “won” the debate. Each of the six announced that the process of the dialogue had helped them to become firmer in their own views about abortion.
“So, it was a failure then?” asked a reporter.
“Oh, no,” replied one of the women. Although they had struggled with profound philosophical differences over the years, they had found the essential connection between them and discovered how to treat each other with dignity and respect. Now, you see, we party together. We watch each other’s children. We love each other.
The Cambridge women learned to seek areas of agreement and developed creative ways in which to work together to offer sex education to teenagers, greater help for pregnant teenagers, and improved adoption programs.
However, the most important aspect of the dialogue was finding the common ground that is always there, even when worldviews collide.
By opening ourselves to our truest nature, which always seeks wholeness, we allow the possibility of pure and immediate resonance with the other within the space of our common humanity.
Noticing the whole
When you notice the whole, you allow for and respect more than one version of reality. You find ways to work together for a larger goal — something bigger and more important than partisan politics.
The most important political act that you can undertake today is to hug a member of the opposite political party.
It will serve to remind you, and everyone around you, that we are, after all, all in this together.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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32 comments on “Hug a Republican (or Democrat) Today”

  1. Thank you Lynn for addressing the devastating consequences of automatic "against" energy and for using your powerful platform and voice to bring this again to attention...and intention.
    You have inspired me to take my voice in this matter to the next level and do something more so that self-righteousness and self-lefteousness can be come undesirable. Thank you.

  2. As a Canadian, living very close to the states, I am very aware of the polarization going on in the U.S. And it is getting worse with time. Hard times brings out the best and the worst in people, and I don't know where it will end.
    Our conditioning certainly plays a key role in our attitudes, as does our education, the internet and public media. We need to make a conscious decision to help fight ignorance in this world, and not just in the U.S.

  3. Thank you Lynn for helping shift the attention from the superficial problems to the deeper ones lying below... and their possible solutions.
    I have to admit that this whole thing was very upsetting to me and it was difficult for me to find a "place" that felt saner, healthier ... your comments have offered me the perspective to find it!

  4. Oh no not only in the US, as a Belgian, I have grown up with the walloons against the flemish, same thing, separation, now the politician are fighting, separation all arround, but what our politicians forget? The people they forget they are dealing with people, they are playing with peoples lives! And God we like to travel to the Ardennes, where we go beyond language, where nature brings people together in long walks and talks! I would say to the flemish hug a Walloon today, to the Walloons hug a Flemish person, we need eachother, we are in this all together! One heart, one world, one race: humanity! Love to you all!

  5. You do make some very enlightened--and enlightening--insights here Lynn.
    Thanks for your views here.
    With political views in mind, I must ask you though, when you say we need to respect a larger view of reality and "something bigger," how do you see people effectively doing that and simultaneously still getting results?
    Respect is wonderful, and finding common ground is divine, but complacency and inaction in these troubled times is an abomination.
    Here's an interesting article about "Progressive Libertariansism that will be post to my blog shortly. I think it exemplifies the thinking you're going for nicely:

  6. Once you learn to accept the view of another person though you disagree with it, you have passed a mark. She or he is still who they were, you are still who you are. You will find you are more peaceful in yourself, you sleep better, you are happier because you see the good in others. You don't have to "understand" why they think the way they do, you only have to accept that they think differently.

  7. Hug A Republican (or a Democrat)...
    I couldn't help but wonder about your title, Lynn. Experience tells me that it is more likely that a Democrat will take your suggestion to heart than a Republican would be. It seems to me that your title is a an acknowledgement of that point...
    Despite the political-pretzel twisting we put ourselves through to find 'middle ground', the truth is that Democrats tend to bend more and faster, tend to sympathise and empathise more and act on their instincts to help the 'underdog' more than Republicans. Republicans tend to be more ideologically more rigid and see that as 'leadership' or 'strength' whereas leading by consensus seems to Democrats more reasonable and fair.
    As long Republicans define themselves on fiscal and family (read moral) issues rather than on the overall responsibility of providing what only a federal government can--namely a social/economic safety net to protect the people who pay the politicians their salaries, American society will continue to be polarised, if it survives at all.
    An observation: One factor--and possible the primary one--contributing to the rise of the vicious right wing is that they have an instant bully pulpit via the internet and 24/7 news channels desperate for headlines, the more sensational the better. News was once a serious matter and stories were closely scrutinised for 'news value'. The corporate ownership of the major news networks has not been a good thing for the American people or for the world.
    I grew up watching Murrow, Shore, Severeid, etc. I attended Senator Dirkson's weekly press briefings, Senator Byrd's orations, and followed the decline of quality in presidents starting with LBJ and Nixon, Reagan and Bush1 and culminating in the embarrassment of the Bush League. I trace the impetus for toxic politics to the vendetta against Clinton for having the temerity to win over Bush 1. The backlash from the Republicans was immediate and unrelenting and we have seen the same thing with Obama. There is a sizable proportion of Americans who are convinced that Republicans are the rightful owners of America and that Democrats are a threat to the Republican's inherent right to rule.
    We cannot heal what ails America with bromides or gestures. We should not abandon the adversarial roots of American Democracy in the mistaken belief that all opposition is a bad thing. The concept of 'checks and balances' is about preventing hegemony through healthy opposition. Toxic personalities do not truly understand --or worse outright reject!--the nuanced thinking that produced the Constitution and steered clear of recreating European classist models of governance in America. Republicans and their mouthpieces (Fox "News", Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, et al) are intent on reshaping America in the image of authortarian state in which the 'strong' dominate and everyone else is intimidated into silence. Given the corporate and military legs of the triad that feeds the Republican machine, they have a far better chance of prevailing than any 'middle of the road' Democrats. Being nice to each other may work at the level of one-to-one relationships but it would take nothing short of an Intention Experiment employing at least one billion 'like-minded' individuals concentrating on softening the hearts and changing the minds of toxic authoritarians all over the world to begin to make a difference. Anericans thought that had happened with the election of Obama but it didn't. He compromised too soon and too much even inviting Republicans into the cabinet where they quickly undermined his credibility by quitting. Democrats don't like dirty fights. It embarrasses them. (Remember the Gore fiasco!). Republicans love a brawl. Witness Coulter, Palin, O'Donnell, Beck, Limbaugh, the late Paul Harvey, and the stable of wanna-be right wing commentators on local radio all over the US.
    I don't apologise for using terms like toxic and right wing to describe the proponents of vicious politics. We don't get anywhere by using euphemisms. We need to face what IS and recognise that sometimes it is necessary to save democracy from those who want to weaken it unto extinction like the Bush League and their successors. To do that we need a new paradigm for dealing with toxic, rigid, self-righteous, over-armed, under-informed people who feel entitled to rule. That would be worth investing time in.

  8. This is very good and right on - especially if we are ever to come together and create a world that our children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) will live in safely and joyfully.

  9. Thank you for this posting. I, too, had the immediate reaction of blaming the likes of Sarah Palin for Saturday's shooting. Jon Stewart's opening monologue on Monday first started me on the road to looking at my feelings differently. Your post here has walked me further down the path.

  10. So the shooters brain was hodge podge of information which he twisted around. Ok. But I did see and hear, sitting in Amsterdam, the Nederlands a CNN newscaster hold up to the camera a paper which she said was his Facebook page and that listed there under the heading of, Inspirational People, were Sarah Palin and The Teabaggers. Now this has been stuffed into a closet somewhere. Not in a desire to GET Sarah Palin but more in the interests of stopping the news being manipulated and controlled I feel that CNN or Facebook should admit to the truth of this. Fear of whipping up more emotion I suppose is considered the wiser choice. But she did write those ill considered words and the man who killed innocents did consider her inspirational. Who are we protecting if we continue to hide the truth?

  11. What? Leave all the independents out in the cold?
    If we are all one then there must be a little of every viewpoint in all of us. Eugene Robinson said something along these lines in his column about President Obama's speech. In talking about conservatives protection of gun laws, he noted that he himself had used the same arguments when defending his position on anti-terrorism measures. He said he saw that he and the conservatives used the very same thinking process to come to differing conclusions on similar problems.

  12. Hi Lynne,
    I think there is something more fundamental we need to do which is first of all we should unconditionally love ourselves and the we should start loving others unconditionally then I am sure we will solve lot of problems we are facing today. One more thing to remember is that we should never judge ourselves or anybody else because this is what will lead us towards unconditional love.

  13. Thank you so much...your emails are a pleasure to receive as I always learn something new.
    Thank you for sharing 🙂

  14. Thank you for your blog, Lynne, for some great points. I was raised a Republican but have moved toward the middle and now consider myself an Independent. I have been much distressed by the polarization in the parties. Actually, I consider myself a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, which makes me something in between, I guess. I firmly believe that none of us has THE right answer to the world's problems, but many act as though they do. I think dialog is much needed and a willingness to compromise.
    I would also like to see us allowing some of the "ordinary folks" get into office. As long as you need to raise millions in order to run for office, many of the best folks will not even try. I feel physically sick when I think of the amount of money spent on political adds which would be much better spent elsewhere.
    I will try to hug both a republican and a democrat.

  15. I too was shocked by the gunning down of these victins in Tucson. While there is so little talk of respect and tolerant understanding there will inevitably be such violence. Mankind is innately violent and self centred; the ability to kill is merely an impulse away when firearms are held in the twenty first century as "of right". Perhaps with each firearms licence issued there might be a rquirement to attend classes which teach responsibility. From time immemorable there has been murder; for this to be mitigated there must be responsibility in the community and accountability. Politicians have to abide by these these rules in the same way as any other member of society including irresponsible bankers. These are indeed, "The Best of Times and The Worst of Times" It is community and accountability with responsibility which will bring about limitation and change. The hub of the community is love; love will never pull a trigger!

  16. There is another important issue. We need to realize that when we dump our anger, rage, fear, etc. on others, which is a big part of what happens in polarization, we do harm. We need to take responsibility for this and demand that politicians, public figures, and media personalities do the same. At the moment, negativity sells, and we havn't taken a stand to insist on accountablity for that.

  17. The gay, anti-gay tension would be instructive here. Learn about the non-violent continuous progress of gay activism and the violent and calls to violence anti-gay history of the last 30 years. Consider the bullying in the school and teenage suicides escalating with the bullying in the church in response to the social, legislative and judicial progress. Contemplate the murder of an innocent gay, and then say lets all just hug. Better to open your eyes and see that hugging this bully is off the charts without justice and accountability for violent calls and unfounded lies. We accept what is not acceptible, and wonder where our civil discourse of democracy has gone. Only one side has the lions share of violence and calls for violence and just a moments exercise in educating your self is needed to witness this. As a gay person, I have found just the witness of the violence and the naming of the violence, and calling for justice, and calling for accountability must proceed the hug. On the consciousness scale, we have let the very fearful, childlike among us, grab power and seem to want to negotiate with them rather than take the car keys back from a child to young and scared to drive. Observe the calls for violence and the resultant violence from the unstable among us. Look at this and realize, the social restraints on calls to violence and character assascination exited for a reason. We once had more control. Now monied interests benefit and fund the conflict. Witnessing this benefits all. Hugs without the real work is just denial.

  18. We need a drastic course change, we have to turn inward and look for solutions within, it is about time.

  19. Dear Lynne,
    As an American living in Brisbane, Australia for the past 7 years, I have just lived through one of the most horrific flooding disasters this country has ever experienced.
    15 people confirmed dead and over 50 still missing and 10’s of 1000’s of people are either unable to access their homes or have lost everything.
    In Brazil, another flooding disaster has killed over 500 people and left 100,000’s homeless and in Sri Lanka floods have devastated then lives of 100’s of 1000’s of people.
    I’m sorry to be so insensitive, but one congress woman getting shot pales in comparison to what is happening around the world right now.
    How about the donkeys and elephants stop this ridiculous bickering, pick their heads up and look outside the confines of the US borders, and start to help those who really need the help!
    Write On!

  20. Lynne, the principle you invoke , that of love triumphant, is forever the key to a better world. I pray for this as my operative attitude every day and every night. In spite of this, the daily reality in the United States makes it terribly hard to actively practice. The stubborn fact is that Democrats and Republicans are not simply virtuous parties in opposition. What we have in the country today is an extreme right wing engaged in a focused campaign to seize power by the most reprehensible methods. They are backed by purely pragmatic, amoral billionaires who wield bushels of money and a formidable multimedia propaganda machine unhindered by ethics or truth. So it's a huge challenge to summon up love for the real originators of this destructive campaign. But the millions who are their rank-and-file can be seen as misled, simply ignorant and manipulated. I have no problem dealing with them with empathy. The destiny of America, born in hope, which really is still deeply loved by its citizens, appears to depend on defeating this assault by plutocratic monopolists who have deceived a large part of the electorate. The nation has done it before, in the early twentieth century. I have faith that we will do it again. Yet through it all, the principle you invoke, which is simply love, must prevail if we are to be true to our founding values.

  21. Hello Lynne,
    I agree with much of what
    Hello Lynne,
    I agree with many of the comments from
    curtis. We are so wrapped up in ourselves in the U S and who is to blame for this horrible tragedy. This man who was the shooter is insane. Who knows what motivated him? I think we should try to love all creatures on our planet and look for our similarities, not our differences. I try to live my life looking through eyes of understanding. But regardless of philosophy, we need to find better ways to recognize mental illness. This shooter and his victims were failed more by apathy than by lining up with political parties, I feel.

  22. I agree with Curtis Chappell - let's not get too focussed on one country's political system for it isn't important in the scheme of things, especially when there are other tragedies at this time.
    Also thanks Siobhan Ruadhan for your insightful comments. I too picked up the slightly 'pro-Republican' tenor to Lynne's post and think it strange since from my 'outsider' point of view (I'm in Australia) the Republicans seem more closed-minded and demanding the 'tendency to insist on sameness' as Lynn puts it.
    The information about the opponents on abortion is very interesting but I don't really see that it resolves anything. Understanding their opponent doesn't resolve the chasm between them. Just like the judgment of Solomon, you can't have half an abortion.
    Surely the middle ground on this particular political issue is to intend that the mentally ill get better interventionist treatment so they don't use extreme and rash political rhetoric as rocket fuel to act out their inarticulate fantasies? Mental health services in the West (but particularly in the US by the looks of it) are underfunded and misunderstood. Often it is put down to a 'lack of character' or 'discipline'. This surely is the area where all societies need to educate themselves and focus their compassion - for the benefit of all!

  23. In a political system with inherent corruption where corporate lobbyists , financial jackals and vested calls the shots, democracy is an illusion and an insult to human intelligence.
    It is just a change of personnel every 5 years.
    To understand is to transform , and bring lasting holistic change.
    Capt Ajit Vadakayil

  24. Thank you so much for sharing Lynne.
    We certainly do live in some interesting times.
    What I have discovered is that when I 'label' myself as a Christian, Buddhist, English/Brit, Health practitioner, etc. I immediately push people away and attract those that have the same values and beLIEfs!
    My point is, we're all ONE, there is no separation and once we do apply a label that can then create a war... look what's going on in Afghanistan, Middle East and so on.
    My question.
    Who would you be without your label (American)?
    Sending love

  25. Reading your post today, Lynne, I was reminded of how even I have been guilty of seeking out this 'sameness' in other people. I think it's something that happens more often than people would think within 'spiritual circles,' and while the initial intention may be good-hearted, it still has that rippling effect. :-
    When I first found people interested in Edgar Cayce and I enrolled at ITP, I was thrilled to find people "like me" who were interested in the things I was. It was so nice to find that 'sameness' after having been with the 'different-ness' for awhile.
    However, I wonder if in appreciating the 'sameness' if I, too, was guilty of rejecting the 'different-ness.' Maybe sameness is nice sometimes, but without different-ness, is there sameness?
    Learning to love each other and the differences... well that seems like the next step in our evolution as a species.
    I'll leave with a qoute from Dr. King:
    "Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."
    With Love and Gratitude,

  26. For the squeamish and those with cootie allergies( just kidding__I'm sure dems and repubs are equally huggable so long as not accompanied by secret service or jealous husbands, wives etc.) I'd like to recommend a book to curl up with for those who would like a little background on the quantitative, if not qualitative aspects of measurement, to wit: The Science of Measurement A Historical Survey by Herbert Arthur Klein. At 700 plus pages, it's got something for everyone.
    By the way the Boulder Daily Camera has posted an article on plans of a highly regarded Psychology journal to publish an article on PSI, specifically on retro-causation, by Whitney Bryan in the Monday Jan. 17 edition.
    Best to All, including the Tunesians

  27. If we're all connected and I hug myself, am I hugging everyone? If not, the model for interconnectedness needs fleshing out, so to speak.

  28. Thanks again everyone, thanks Lynne ,and every blog. I really needed to read this today. Peace everyone...

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