I know that when I am thinking about a topic, I start to see the world through the lens of that topic. Whatever I read or listen to starts to be evaluated from the perspective of that subject sitting in my frontal cortex. I weigh, value, and begin to build an argument based on the fragments coming from all these different sources. The poet in me visualizes it as sewing a patchwork quilt. In fact, I have this mental image of my grandmother, who was a master quilt maker and whose quilts are found throughout my house, when I stitch together ideas to form a new whole.
Knowing this about my thought process led to some self-reflection since I realized that I have been thinking about deep divergences in society whether it is about political ideology, demographics, or economics. I want to know the sources of these divisions, who is pushing polarity and why?
For example, I read in The Economist that gun culture in America is partly divisive because proponents of gun ownership believe there is a “cosmic battle between ultimate good and ultimate evil being waged on earth as well as in the spiritual realm” meaning “that individuals may display their propensity for evil at any moment.” Believing that evil is potentially everywhere results in 120.5 guns for every 100 Americans, more than double the level of guns in Yemen, the second highest gun-saturated country, which is incidentally engaged in a civil war.
Listening to podcast analysis on the summit in Glasgow also had me thinking about divergence in views on anthropogenic climate change. Whether one calls it climate anxiety or ecological grief, deep concern about global warming is increasingly affecting many people’s everyday life.
Perhaps this frontal lobe focus is because this week is Thanksgiving—that great American holiday that focuses on the family. Perhaps it is that I am keenly aware of the ocean that separates me from my aging parents. Perhaps it is facing the reality of the cosmic battle with covid, which necessitates new lockdowns and the severing of in-person interactions that are the basis of learning at UCM and its strong sense of community.
Whatever the source of these moral cleavages, which batter my mental health and those around me, I will keep reading, listening, and weighing ideas to stitch together strategies that might not win the battles but hopefully work a little closer to convergence in what it means to be human.
Roberta Haar, professor of Foreign Policy Analysis and Transatlantic Relations at UCM