Letter: Nation needs to move beyond divisiveness

From: Tom Lane


We are on the cusp of another transfer of power in this, the most powerful nation on the planet. Everyone is aware of this, but how aware and understanding are we of power?

We tend to immediately focus on the specific candidates, and the whole notion of power itself is lost. And that is a little scary, for it is this power thing that has everyone going crazy.

One of the things I had to learn in my business of organizational change was the nature of power. People who have it want to preserve it. People who have it want to expand it. People who do not have it have few levers in the system to gain more of it. The system is designed to entrench those who have power and exclude those who do not have it. A perfect game for those who run the game. As the current saying goes, “The system is rigged.” Not the electoral system, but the overall economic system.

Another aspect of power is that there are two basic approaches to experiencing it. One is the individual-based sense of power. This idea is that power comes from a strong individual motivation to achieve, succeed and gain control. This is the classic American entrepreneurial spirit. It is based on an idea that life is a survival-of-the-fittest struggle. We move ahead because of individual initiative and effort. And there is much truth in that.

The other approach to power is the notion that power is a collective power of working together and supporting each other in common goals. This has been the secondary power in America. This is the power of unions and collective bargaining. It is also the power that most comes into play when a national crisis occurs. We pull together as a country when threatened as a nation. It is what won World War II for the world.

We live in both of these worlds, and the issue is not which is right or wrong, but when do we need to do which one? It is a balance. Both are necessary, but both are not easy bedfellows. We tend to blame the other for the problems of the day. The problems of the day come from not recognizing the need for both forms of power.

We have an election that creates a grand contrast for all this. We have the male side of individualism portrayed by Donald Trump. We have the collective power portrayed by Hillary Clinton. We have this huge divide that will do us no good if we continue to see these two approaches to power as separate and conflicting. We need both sides. We need acceptance and cooperation, not divisiveness.

We have an opportunity to understand how life works with this dramatic contrast. We are all individuals, and we are all collective. We are a family and we are individuals. You know that in your own life. You are both separate and connected at the same time.