(Note: Julie Gehrke is an Eagan resident and organizational coaching consultant for companies and non profits with expertise in conflict analysis. This blogpost was reprinted from her website Waiting4aStar2Fall. We think it resonates with our foundational belief that freedom AND equality, free enterprise AND democracy, liberty AND justice are not mutually exclusive values.)
Last week I attended a conference in Denver, Colorado and I was asked to lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. It was a gesture of recognition for my past involvement on the board of directors. But it could have turned into a social faux pas of embarrassing proportions:
Scott, the current president, was zipping into the conference room to open the session but he paused to catch my attention and said, “Julie, would you lead the Pledge of Allegiance for us in the opening?”
“Sure.” It’s quick, easy and out of the spotlight in no time I thought. Let me see, I pledge allegiance to the flag, and for justice, no wait! How does it go again? I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, for justice…Oh no! When is the last time I said the pledge? Grade school?
Just then a friend walked by. “Linnea – can you help me? Scott wants me to lead the pledge and I can’t remember it.”
She stopped and we faced each other. In unison we said, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
“Got it. I just needed to say it with someone and it came rolling out,” I laughed.
Linnea smiled, “Yes, good, I understand.”
When it was my turn to go to the front of the room, I felt confident. The pledge went well and then something interesting happened. I was struck by the beauty of the words at the end, with liberty and justice for all.
That’s what we’re all about, that’s what we stand for, that is our country’s vision statement.
Our laws and constitutional interpretations become the means to accomplish the vision. And because of this, they change. What does liberty and justice look like? Society will change the answer to this question with each new generation. Therefore, it must also make adjustments to it’s mission – or the path on ‘how to get there.’
I had the opportunity to spend an hour with an attorney last week. He is running for United States Congress. I gave him a brief presentation on how the DFL and the GOP view the composition of “their group” and how they view the composition of “their enemy” and how this sets the stage for each groups’ internal and external conflicts. We talked about how to communicate in a way that can be heard by each side on a range of topics that included the impact of carbon-based pollution on the climate to the current crisis at the border with the children. At one point in the conversation I said, “I find that both sides often want the same things, they just have different values on how to get there.”
In conclusion, can we compromise?
We can be thankful to live in a country with a vision statement of liberty and justice. Maybe it’s ironic I wrote this from Colorado where the marijuana laws have recently changed and the country waits and watches to see the results. In general, our laws need to change and evolve as we expand our perceptions and become more inclusive in our mission to provide liberty and justice. For example, conservatives tend to place emphasis on criminal justice whereas liberals focus on social justice. Conservatives want more liberty over their income, including how and why it is taxed, whereas liberals want liberty from laws intended to govern their personal lives. Both sides value the means, liberty and justice, but place emphasis on different ends. Therein lies the temptation to jump down the rabbit hole of judgement where we become blinded to the core values we happen to share.
This is why talking face to face is important. I think the worst thing we can do is allow TV and radio commentators to interpret the “other” side for us. In the last election, I did not vote for the political candidate I advised this past week but after speaking to him in person, I will not be disappointed if he wins the upcoming election and I may even vote for him because he was open to discussing the centrist perspective.
If we start asking our own questions of the “other”, we might discover how much we value the same things.
Maybe we just need to face each other and recite it together – with liberty and justice for all.