By Aaron Brogan
Even the most partisan of politicians must remember: Despite all of our emphasis on the individual, we in reality do very little that is not fundamentally social.
The video linked above shows the structure of a giant underground ant colony. The scale is massive, the method amazing. Millions of ants act with one mind. It astounds us, because we humans maintain a veneer of individualism, believing that if every person acts in their own best interest, we will collectively produce the best results for our society.
For a moment, though, imagine yourself as an impartial alien observer looking down on Chicago, Paris, or Seoul — anywhere we inhabit, or anything have done. What would you see? Despite all of our emphasis on the individual, we in reality do very little that is not fundamentally social. We act as a species. You probably already realize the scope of your dependance on society as a whole, and that idea abstracts to all of human endeavor. No one person knows how to build anything. The person who assembled your laptop does not know how to mine its aluminum, nor does the aluminum miner likely know how to assemble a laptop. Indeed, each of the innumerable facets so indisputably essential to ‘life as we know’ it took thousands of lifetimes to design and develop. Without trying, we have acted as species to create a world that not one of us completely understands or could individually reproduce.
Looking down on our achievements from afar, an impartial observer would see that we are just like the ants, only bigger and better. It is easy to fall prey to stark individualism. The American mentality that affords outsized importance to individual accomplishments is a well-documented phenomena. Greed, Gordon Gecko gabs, is good. Greed works. Though probably true in the short, personal term, it is too easy to become so focused on the individual that we lose sight of our crucial mutual interdependence.
In the same vein, while it is easy to vilify Republicans, doing so predisposes us to forget that we all live in the same country and, for the most part, have the same goals. Though there are values we will never agree on, like the ants, we are building something important, and we are building it together.
So here’s what I’d like you to do: Find a Republican you disagree with most ardently and find something that you agree with them on. It doesn’t have to be a policy or even anything particularly well-formed; it can, for example, simply be an ideal. For me, that’s John Boehner. He may be a bad lawmaker, but I doubt he is a bad man. He has made decisions which I agree with. For instance in 2004 he voted against a bill which would have required hospitals to gather and report information on possible illegal aliens before hospitals could be reimbursed for treating them.
The exercise of finding commonalities like this is incredibly valuable because the polarized resentment du jour can only promote division. We are in this thing together. It’s not changing. Let’s make something of it We see the gridlock in Washington harm this country every time we turn on the news, and if we can remember that even our most ardent opponents share something with us then maybe we can take a step towards building this country together. That is what we all want, isn’t it?