Monday, September 17, 2012

Constitution Day: Re-Engaging Cooperation

As we have before, passing along one of Stan Stahl's creative and insightful essays. On this, the 225th anniversary of the Constitution of the United States, and in this combative political season, his narrative reminds us that our nation-- our union--is built on cooperation. Not a bad concept for the needed work in our communities. Not a bad reference for a software platform called CommunityOS. It's about technology designed to help partner organizations cooperate where they can and maintain privacy where necessary. Working together to work better.

Stan's essay:

Constitution Day, 2012
Stan Stahl, Ph.D.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the people seem to be wandering in the wilderness that is the chaos of our times. Here we are - in the midst of our 57th presidential election since George Washington - and we seem lost. From foreign affairs to the strength of the economy, we seem to be at the mercy of events beyond our control. We are clearly not the captains of our fate.

Seven weeks before the election, we have one candidate saying follow me as he pulls us to the Northeast while the other candidate is saying follow me as he sets off to the southwest.

Follow me they both say, follow me; for I am not lost. My way leads to milk and honey and the pots of gold that await us at the end of rainbows. And the ways of my opponents lead nowhere but to despair and chaos and ruin. Follow me for I am the way.

Follow me they both say, follow me. Look at my charts and graphs. Listen to the intellectual analyses from my staff and my advisors. See how brilliant we are. See how intellectually empty the other side is. Follow me for I am smart.

Follow me they both say, follow me. Feel how I empathize with the pain these last four years have brought you. Feel how our heart yearns for your success. Follow me for we are one.

Follow me they both say, follow me. Give me your vote on November 6th.

"We are in the very midst of revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable of any in the history of the world."
John Adams
July, 1776

As Madison reminded us, the revolution that is liberty is driven by factions. Factions are to liberty what Oxygen is to fire. Take away factions and you take away liberty. What you are left with is tyranny. The cure is worse than the disease.

And - during election times - the factions coalesce, coming together around the two major party candidates. During election season, the wilderness becomes very black and white. Follow me to the land of milk and honey. As if we were children, still believing in fairy tales.

As the brutal murders this week of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi remind us, these are not fairy tale times. As the 8.1% of us who are unable to find work remind us, these are not fairy tale times. Nor are they fairy tale times for the 368,000 of us who gave up looking for a job last month. Nor will they be fairy tale times for any of us if $1.2 trillion dollars in automatic budget cuts take effect in January.

Little beyond the usual election-year blah-blah-blah will happen before Election Day - except as it is believed to affect the search for the magic 270.

And November 7th - regardless of who wins - it will be back to business as usual, the same arguing and bickering we're used to seeing from our elected officials. NorthwestSoutheastMy way is the true path. No, my way is the one.

These are the times that try men's soul
Thomas Paine
December 23, 1176

We have lived together through much, you and I, we the people, since those guns at Lexington,the shots heard 'round the world. And in all we have lived through, we have seen the blessings of cooperation ... along with the tragedy that results when cooperation is absent.

Cooperation was present at our founding in 1776: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It was there, too, at the Constitutional Convention where - 225 years ago today - in 1787 the founders secured the Blessings of Liberty to themselves and to us, their Posterity.

Cooperation was most tragically absent during our civil war, a war testing whether our nation, or any nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, can long endure.

It is again absent in 2012.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
Rumi.

Out beyond our distrust and our unwillingness to cooperate live the verities, those eternal truths that have shown up over the course of our sojourn on our home planet, truths about how we connect to each other, how we build trust, how we learn to cooperate.

The first of these great truths is the Golden Rule, a general principle found in all of mankind's traditions: Treat others as you would be treated. Love others as you would be loved.

Our Declaration-that we are all created equal with equal rights-is but a political corollary of the Golden Rule. We all want liberty for ourselves. Therefore, there must be liberty for all. As Lincoln put it: As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.
                               
The milk and honey lies neither to the Northeast or the Southwest. The milk and honey is already here, waiting for us to give it form. It shows up - spontaneously - as if by magic - when we work together cooperatively in win-win-win ways to meet our most difficult challenges.

Magic happens when we cooperate from our deepest and most heart-felt positions. In that spirit of cooperation - that spirit of commitment towards meeting our challenges, no matter how hard or difficult or seemingly impossible - in that spirit of liberty - we the people unleash the very energy that creates the milk and honey, the blessings of liberty.

So today, the 225th anniversary of the American republic, at a time when it's hard to see anything but continued gridlock ahead, at the final mad dash to what Jon Stewart calls "Indecision 2012," it's time to slow down, take a deep breath and remember Lincoln's words from his first Inaugural Address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Let freedom ring.
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You can see more of Stan's essays here.