Pando, the Civil War, and the Vital Importance of Unity

My three year old threw up this afternoon, my house is a mess, I have mountains of laundry to do, I need to grocery shop….and yet I can’t get my nose out of my book and my hands off my writing! I suppose I am doomed to be a horrible housekeeper. Just owning the crazy.

I’ve plowed through several more chapters of Jung’s autobiography and I’m amazed at how he cuts to the core of the problems we are facing in our world today. He understands the root problem, which is roots. Of course.

America is so young. When we think of a nation like Switzerland, where Jung is from, we are infantile. In a few hundred years, we have sprung up from nothing and nowhere to becoming the leading nation of the free world. Unfortunately, this has put us in a place of power and authority which perhaps our youth, inexperience, and impulsivity has made us ill equip to bare. We are in an awful predicament with a grievously divided population. Everything we have worked so hard to build in the last centuries is on the verge of collapse.

Some on the right look at the economy and a handful of policies and a few court appointments and say, “All is well!” On the left, there is great hope that Trump is their blessing in disguise. He will enable them to swing the country further to the left and solidify their questionable aims in a powerful backlash against his incompetent administration. I have no such optimistic outlook. America is only as strong as she is united. Abraham Lincoln knew this. The Master said, a house divided against itself shall fall. America is divided, and how will it not be as the Master has decreed? The seeds of our destruction have been sown. The seedlings grow bigger and more formidable by the day. Our enemies salivate as they patiently wait for us to fall. They will be free to terrorize the world once our troublesome morality no longer keeps them in check.

Those who love the country as I do, and see our sharp divisions as the number one problem of our time–no it isn’t climate change or an invasion from our Southern border–we need to act. The solution to our problem is, as Jung described, related to growing roots.

America is not a blood and soil nation. We are composed of immigrants. Even the Native Americans immigrated here over many thousands of years. More recently, the United States of America has become a place of refuge for a vast assortment of people from all over the globe with only one thing in common, we want a better life, and we want to live free.

The latin phrase “E Pluribus Unum” keeps coming into my conscious mind. We must find a way to make one out of many. We must find a way to make roots like Pando.

Pando, is located in Utah. This synchronicity is significant to me in light of our spiritual mandate as Latter-Day Saints to knit the peoples of the world together through a shared knowledge of their creator, as well as our efforts to knit generations together through temple work. Pando is a powerful symbol of our divine calling.

For those who are unfamiliar, Pando is the largest living thing on the planet. On the surface of the Earth, Pando looks like a forest of Aspen trees. The trees are not individual organisms as other forests; the trees are connected by a common root system that makes the individual trees more like the arms of a Centimanes, the legendary hundred-handed ones.

Because our roots are shallow in this country, we must, like Pando, knit our roots together. Our strength will not be in the depth of our roots, but in their surface area as we knit ourselves into a living mass. We must understand and embrace one another. We must eschew government force to achieve our societal goals. These methods produce temporary results and lasting resentments. We must rely instead upon the merits of our arguments, the soundness of our scientific observations, and the power of our persuasion. Using force upon the minds of our fellow Americans is unAmerican! If we cannot persuade a solid majority of our fellow citizens that our policies are good for the country, they probably need adjustment. Both of the major parties seem unable to do that. We increasingly rely on forceful tactics like fillibuster, veto, party line voting, and even judicial decree to push through policies and appointed leaders that are unpalatable to large groups of rational Americans. This causes resentment to fester and gives birth to the modern tendency toward revenge politics.

Although each tree appears separate, it is linked to the entire forest through it’s unique roots.

How do we knit our roots with people who seem predisposed to hate one another, to assume the worst motives, to suspect every action as a potential or eminent attack? Someone must embrace humility. Someone must admit it when they are wrong. Someone must reach out in vulnerability to someone who thinks differently than they do. Is there risk in this? Certainly, but I have made friends with several people who differ politically from me, and just last weekend we got together to play games. We had a respectful and productive discussion about a red hot controversial issue. What resulted was amazing to behold. There was self-reflection. There was insight. There was little certainty, no raised voices, and no attempts to “educate” anyone else about the “truth.” We weren’t right and left. We were friends sharing ideas and perspectives.

Humility is an endangered species in the world of virtues today. The certainty of the modern mind that it possesses within its own collection of facts and experiences the sum of all truth, will be our downfall. As individual Americans, we do not possess all the truth in the universe. We possess our unique part of the truth which, as we share with others, we can sew those pieces together to form a strong and cohesive whole. That quilt of truths can stand the test of time, and the attacks of our enemies, and lead us into a bright and confident future.

The predicament we are in right now is not the sole fault of one party. I see America as a single entity composed of two parts. Those parts are also composed of parts. I see a fracturing of America as we become less able to compromise and more certain that our viewpoint is the only one that contains validity and must be forced upon the whole. America has faced a fracturing before. I believe that the only reason America made it through the Civil War and post war period is because of the incredible humility of Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln believed in the South and its importance to the union. The South was rebellious and racist and in many ways unAmerican. After the war, the South was devastated. Like the father of the prodigal son, Abraham Lincoln welcomed the South back into his arms and restored him to his place as a son. Why would he do that? What value did he see in this revolting group of traitors? He saw in them, his fellow citizens; a fallible and mistaken group of people to forgive and embrace.

The charity and compassion of a single man, the leader of our country, ensured the survival of the union. Can we have that compassion for one another? Can the former slaves, join hands with their former masters? Can the oppressed minority embrace their former oppressors? Can we move beyond this place of partisan gridlock, enmity, and pride to find the humanity in each one of us? We can, but we must start with our friends and family. I’m a better person because I have friends who have different political views. My understanding of the issues is more complete because I have listened and questioned the weak assumptions I used to entertain.

Much of our political beliefs are not based in facts, but in narratives. These narratives are composed not of data points, numbers, graphs, or research, but our interpretation of those things. It is what resonates with us that has the substance to be a part of our inner political structure of beliefs. As I have examined my own political beliefs and narratives I have found much more areas of compromise and flexibility with others. Only when I defend and deflect, pontificate and condescend, do I come away from a political discussion without a change of perspective.

I believe in the future of America. I believe that we have the power within us to rise above the challenges before us. I believe in the power of individuals to reach out to one another in spite of our differences. We can and we must. The world depends on us to carry the torch of freedom to the oppressed in foreign lands. Many of the best and brightest of these at this very moment languish in the prisons of the despots whom their voices threaten. They look to us for that fragile human emotion that keeps them alive; hope. My Savior knows their value, and so do I.

I don’t believe it is my Lord’s will that America should fall. I do know that he chastens his people. I know that he will have a humble people whether we choose today to humble ourselves, or we have our circumstances compel us to humility, we will get there. I also know that through small and simple things, the Lord bringeth to pass that which is great. In my recovery, I have noticed that much of my psychological distress is rooted in anxiety for my country and the world. The pressure within me to speak to the dangers I see builds up until I am able to write. I pray that the Lord will have mercy on my fellow Americans and show us the way forward to peace and stability. I pray that perhaps my words might resonate and do some good to heal this land, that we might always remain E Pluribus Unum.

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