There is no longer a "We the People of The United States"
High conflict — the kind that is self-destructive and stubbornly resistant to resolution — is not mysterious. And we have much more wisdom about how to respond to it than we think.The only good option is to do counterintuitive things. We must step out of the zombie dance we are in... One lesson I’ve learned in covering dysfunctional conflict for the past five years is that most people, even very violent people, want to live. And they want their families to be safe. That is one thing we all have in common. Horrific incidents such as the one at Pelosi’s home offer an unusual (and fleeting) opportunity to invite people to do something differently.
First, sign the contract. All over the world, the U.S. government has pushed politicians to sign codes of conduct in times of conflict. Gang-violence interrupters do this every day in Chicago and other cities — urging combatants and their supporters to join a nonaggression pact. It’s time to invite American politicians and pundits to do what we’ve long asked other people, in far more harrowing circumstances, to do.
In politics, this might mean pledging not to dehumanize one’s opponent on social media or elsewhere (by saying they are evil or hate the United States, for example). The codes could include vows to accept the results of the election after reasonable due process and, of course, to condemn all acts of violence, especially when they are perpetrated against a member of the opposition.
Walk the walk. Part of how we got into this mess is by watching politicians and pundits gleefully attack each other on TV. Part of how we get out of it is by doing the opposite: having credible messengers from each side demonstrate human decency.
One thing Americans still do exceptionally well is to produce original, creative content. We tell stories that move people to imagine a better world. Now is the time to tell a different story, one of courage and decency alongside honest debate.
Right-size the fear. One predictable cause of collective violence is collective fear. When threat levels are high and fear is mixed with contempt, disgust and humiliation, humans will feel they have no choice but to annihilate one another.