This article erases any doubt that the Arizona right-to-refuse bill reflected addiction to power politics rather than participation in democratic dialogue. It is unlikely Arizona is unique in this regard.
The late Rabbi Edwin Friedman explained family systems theory in his book Generation to Generation, saying it was important to identify the difference between an expression of a family system (essentially a cycle of ingrained behavior choices) and reasoned dialogue. The value of making the distinction is in choosing one’s response. In reasoned dialogue, information acquired through education and research play a major role. This approach is called “inductive reasoning,” meaning, reason comes in to you, from data. A family system situation involves either no reasoning — just pure reflex — or “deductive reasoning,” which is, to assert certain premises and then argue that from them come certain conclusions about the situation at hand. So if someone is reactive or deductive, inductive reasoning won’t work.
So what to do?
Rabbi Friedman said that the best thing to do is to move away from logic and debate altogether and simply ask the person what they are doing and how it is working for them. The key value of this approach is that it turns attention onto the person involved and asks, not for their opinion, but for their experience. Unitarian Universalists have been attracted to this approach because it employs our First Principle of Faith, namely, that we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person (many say “being”). This approach guides sociologist Michael Kimmel, in his excellent book, Angry White Men, which is full of stories from people of the title’s description.
Kimmels’ book showed me that right wing activism of the sort described in this New York Times article is really a failure to approach a group of Americans through their family system, relying insteadl on power politics against them (boycotts, demonstrations, bullying and caricatures). This cycle — essentially of induction-based family systems like mine against addictive and deductive family systems like theirs — is dragging our nation into the pit from which emerge eras like Weimar Germany (hyper polarization and hedonism in response to economic collapse) and Nazism (rebuilding the economy and national pride via militarized industry and discrimination as a tool to eliminate competitors for work and commerce). My objection to my religion’s failure to engage publicly at a family cycle level reflects the fear with which every German-heritage person is raised, that is, “I can’t let this happen again.”
The stunning effectiveness of the Koch brothers and other plutocrats is that they listened to the idealistic premises of a disempowered people and manipulated the resultant flow of deductive reasoning. We who try to argue with “facts” or competing ideals get nowhere because we do not begin with respect.
I have mentioned — as have others — the need for another “Freedom Summer,” massive voter support campaigns. But it might be more effective to put down the placards, stow away the slogans, and visit from door to door amongst the population with the rapid downward spiral, namely, working class white men. Not the Alpha male white guys that generate the stereotype of “white male privilege,” but the ones whose dads had salaried middle class careers and solid pensions, but who now rely on their wives’ minimum wage earnings to stay afloat. Ask them what they need, what they want. Show a little First Principle in the place where it hurts not them, but us.
The Reverend Scott Wells pulled up an old symbol of Unitarian Universalist merger the other day, which perfectly demonstrates this approach to public strife: two circles next to each other, with slight interlocking areas. This perfectly captures my wish. Again I defer to fellow blogger, Patrick Murfin, and his Edwin Markham epigraph,