Political polarization can indeed be stilled—not by doing battle, but by breaking pattern.
I was a child of the sixties. When we boomers came of age, the dust had pretty much settled over the trauma of two world wars and a great depression. Nonetheless, change was in the wind. For us new kids on the block, many of the norms and beliefs that provided the previous generation’s feelings of safety and security didn’t make sense. At times we judged rigid expectations for gender roles, race, basic civil rights, and life paths in general as illogical, unrealistic, or unfair.
The sixties rebellion is a thing of folklore. Challenging the seemingly nonsensical led the way. “Power to the people,” “hell, no, we won’t go,” “make love not war,” “don’t trust anyone over thirty” “turn on and tune out” and similar notions became rallying cries. We saw a rise in practices such as sit-ins, civil rights marches, draft dodging, burning bras, nonconformist styles of dress and music, and other means of social defiance. These are what often come to mind when people think about the era.
Behind the scenes, however, the less visible among us were also working hard. Rather than depending on acting-out behavior to get us what we wanted, we scoured the horizons, seeking viable solutions for changing times. We eventually met in the middle with those who did not understand us, using existing governmental, social service, faith based, educational, and other systems that impact social decision-making. We applied them in new ways.
Our hearts and souls poured blood, sweat and tears into our efforts, every bit as much as did the colleagues out on the streets who were crying for action. We continued to strive for a better society throughout our lives. It does take time.
And how our world differs from fifty years ago. We grew—not just by way of angry opposition, though these more noticeable efforts did raise awareness. Our society established new norms because of willingness to break ingrained social patterns that had become obsolete.
Laurel Hughes, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist specializing in disaster mental health, is author of “The Cogjam Effect – and the Path to Healing Divisive Community and Fractured Science,” www.thecogjameffect.com.