Letter from Publisher
Our nation has become bitterly divided over the past decade. The primarily two-party political system has proven to be good fodder for those that benefit from manipulating people into an us-versus-them mentality. This divisive environment has been worsened by a 24-hour news cycle with myriad media outlets, some of which cater not to truth, but instead promote an agenda by creating a personal echo chamber to reinforce what their viewers want to hear, instead of challenging them with diverse ideas. This perfect storm has led to the spreading of misinformation, as well as bitter disagreements between relatives and neighbors, “unfriending” childhood friends and relatives on social media and a boil-over of powerful anger and incivility. Such anger, psychologists concur, may lead to irrational behavior and harmful actions, including violence.
We can and should be better than this, and we can overcome the divide-and-conquer mentality that is being promoted. This month’s issue of Natural Awakenings focuses on creating a happier family life and raising happy, healthy and less-stressed children. As we strive to stay true to our values and ensure that our children feel loved, we need to model this behavior by applying those values in our interactions with others. In a natural disaster, we come to each other’s aid, not knowing or caring about the distressed person’s political affiliation. We offer to assist a stranded motorist in a parking lot. We donate during food drives, not knowing or caring who receives the items. Neighbors throughout Milwaukee and the nation gathered side-by-side to enjoy Fourth of July parades and fireworks, not knowing or caring about the opinions or beliefs of the people seated around them.
Studies in the field of human psychology have shown that it is extraordinarily difficult to change someone’s mind, even when the person is presented with undeniable facts, because personal views and opinions are like walls that protect us, keep us safe and help us survive. It is no wonder then that we fight hard to defend and protect these walls. Interestingly, studies of self-affirmation conditioning find that before you try to change somebody’s mind, if you first ask them to remember something that gave them a positive view of themselves, they’re more likely to be open to facts and to change their opinions. It seems that with a little effort we can open our own minds and the minds of others.
Several practices may help us quash dangerous anger and keep the pot from boiling over. We can find a sense of calm and positivity, take a deep breath, engage in conversation with others with a sense of curiosity (instead of viewing those with opposing views as enemies), and let go of our need to be right and win. This isn’t a game—it’s humanity. For the sake of our nation, let’s all unplug and try talking with one another.
Let’s give peace a chance,
Gabriella Buchnik, Publisher