With decades of work in conflict transformation, I must ask the question: “Do we have any common ground?” We oppose a movement that threatens democracy around the world. It must be challenged and its power destroyed. Yet a movement is made up of individual people. My question is whether I share any common ground with them and if that might offer hope for transformation.
This authoritarian, radical right movement is not a single entity. It includes radical economic and political conservatives, Christian Nationalists, MAGA followers, militia groups, and people who lust for power and money – all of which must be opposed. Are there not, though, individuals caught up in diverse parts of this movement who share desires and dreams in common with mine?
As I wandered among the vendor stands at Reawaken America and listened to the speakers and watched the people, I knew that at some level we all have similar desires:
- A decent income
- Freedom from fear
- Trust in our leaders and confidence in our government
- Hope for our nation and the world our grandchildren will live in
Dr. Mark Sherwood, with his wife, Dr. Michele Neil-Sherwood, founded the Functional Medicine Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma (https://fmidr.com/). Their stories, briefly told on their website, sound inspiring, and their commitment to the health of the whole person seems genuine. While I might question some aspects of their practice of medicine, I do not doubt that we share some common ground in what we want for people in this life.
As Mark Sherwood spoke on Saturday morning, he talked about our desire to live and not die. Who doesn’t share that desire? He talked about abundant living and a desire for a better life and a nation we want for our grandchildren. Even in that context, though, he also talked about “battling tyranny” – meaning the government and current administration. I disagree with that. He used the “Make America Great Again” language and claimed that our problems are because “we fail to put God first.” While I may agree with that last statement, I am sure we mean very different things by what it means.
Among all the speakers those two days, Mark Sherwood’s presentation brought me to ask the question of common ground, not with everyone but with enough people in this broad movement that we might change the trajectory. I doubt that he and I would agree on many questions of politics or religion, but don’t we share common desires for a better life – for health, family, a decent living, freedom, trust in our leaders?
It’s an opening, a place to begin – like the entrance to a dark cave where we don’t know what’s inside – but can we do it together? I may never sit down and talk with the Sherwoods, but I know a great many people – family and friends – with whom I share common dreams and desires, but disagree on how to move toward them. This is one way forward in our nation. Sit down with people, listen to each other’s stories – our desires and dreams – and create a new story for transformation in our future.