It Takes a Village

It takes a village to raise each new generation. Last Monday was the 78th Anniversary of  “D-Day,” aka “Operation Overload.” On June 6, 1944, a village of 150,000 troops, 195,000 sailors, and 23,000 airmen put down their collective feet to say, “NO MORE!” to the violence, tyranny, and carnage created by a madman.

 Can’t We All Just Get Along?

This question is a paraphrase of what Rodney King asked in 1992 when riots spread destruction, death, and terror across Los Angeles. In 1991 four police officers brutally beat King, a man of African descent, after a high-speed chase. A witness recorded the violence and gave the recording to a local news channel. In 1992 a predominately Caucasian jury failed to convict the officers and an outburst of pent-up frustration, anger, and resentment erupted into lethal riots that lasted nearly a week. In a public appearance, King said, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?” King was eventually compensated over $3 Million in damages and died at age forty-seven. It was a sad end to a tragic event that has been repeated too many times in too many cities since.

Unity vs Diversity?

Sunday is Trinity Sunday in many Protestant Churches. Once again pastors will try to explain how God can be three entities one being and one being in three distinct entities. It is a discussion that fascinates theologians, and in earlier times literally so divided people with differing views that they killed one another over the issue. Today the dilemma is probably so far removed from most people’s minds that they wouldn’t know where to begin to render an opinion on the matter, let alone fight with anyone about it.

But it does raise a very real issue that we are going to war about and are killing one another other. And that is whether or not the human community can sustain both unity and diversity. Can we have extreme differences of opinions about hot-button topics such as gun regulations, Red or Blue political views, the legality of abortion, climate change issues, etc? Can we be divided in opinion and united in a common cause?

Lessons from the Mayflower

I find some insights from the story of the Mayflower voyage. From July through December of 1620 the Mayflower became a floating village. Counting the 102 passengers and another perhaps 25 crew, it was a floating community of approximately 125 men, women, and children. Plus the two dogs we know about and perhaps also a few poultry, goats, and pigs for food along the way and after arrival.

There are numerous ways to divvy up the community. Passengers vs crew. Men vs. women. Adults vs. children. English exiles starting from Leiden vs. English subjects starting from England. Separatists vs. non-separatists, all probably part of the Established Church of England the exiled Separatists emigrated to get away from. Bottom line, there were plenty of differences among the members of this village.

Many Differences, One Huge Goal

The residents of this floating village did not all like, respect, or want to associate with all the others. Yet, they had one huge common goal: get safely from England to the New World. Along the way, they encountered numerous challenges, including nearly capsizing mid-crossing. They had to work together to stay afloat.

Within hours of sighting land after their 66-day crossing, trouble erupted. The non-Separatists saw a chance to strike out on their own. They had arrived 400 miles north of the area previously claimed by the Virginia Company that financed their voyage. They assumed they had no further obligation to the terms of the trip.

We Need Each Other

The one village was about to splinter into two factions. The more rational and clear thinking passengers realized that if they did not come together as one, they would likely all die in a matter of months. Out of this situation was born the Mayflower Compact.

Every adult man in the floating village (with the exception of the crew who were headed back to England as soon as possible) signed or placed their “X” to indicate their commitment to the survival of the village. The plan worked. Today that small community has approximately 35 million descendants around the world.

We Need One Huge Goal

The common denominator between the D-Day and the Mayflower is that both groups had one gigantic goal that kept them together when differences could have torn them apart. What happened to Rodney King, and the resulting violence that erupted, is a symptom of our lack of a common goal as a country.

We slice and dice the modern United States into all sorts of sub-categories and then pit groups against one another like some deranged dog fight. Some seem to thrive on fighting and bloodshed and blood and violence make more profits than tranquility and harmony. Humans have been at war with one another since the beginning of time. Conflicts erupt in families all the time. Workplace battles are commonplace.

But does it have to be this way? Can’t we set aside our differences to work together on solutions to common problems? I don’t know if we can or not. But I am hopeful we will, because I think the stakes are too high not to find ways to come back together.

Causes of Conflict

Most conflicts are the result of two or more people equally determined to have their own way. They disagree on the best way forward and won’t consider the option of cooperation and compromise. However, our history records times when people of different cultures collaborated for the mutual benefit of all. Antarctica is one example. The International Space Station is another. We hear little about these cooperative efforts and much about times when countries and cultures collide over land use and resources. “If it bleeds, it leads.” What we learn from the news is not all there is to know.

Community Cures

Actor Matthew McConaughey grew up in Uvalde and owns guns. He made a statement earlier this week from the Rose Garden in response to the massacre in his home town May 24. “I promise you, America—you and me, —we are not as divided as we’re being told we are…. How about we get inspired? Give ourselves just cause to revere our future again. Maybe set an example for our children, give us reason to tell them, ‘Hey, listen and watch these men and women. These are great American leaders right here. Hope you grow up to be like them.’”

Conflict in Cyber Space

Today we often do battle with strangers via Social Media. My beloved ELCA is currently embroiled in a sticky personnel issue that has gone viral with people piling on their assessments, conclusions, and judgments, while those charged with trying to calm some very troubled waters do what they can to learn the facts and determine the next best steps.

Social media was originally intended as a place for people to share information, stories about themselves, and things they found amusing or amazing. Back in the 90’s a friend enthusiastically extolled the virtues of this new way of communicating. To prove his point, he told me how the Internet enabled a Texas agriculture professor to help an African farmer get more produce for his efforts. Anything that can be created can also be corrupted.

It is far easier to make a mess than clean up after one. We appear to be in one giant, global mess these days. Yet, we are not powerless pawns in some sadistic plot to destroy the global village. We many have good examples from throughout history of how a single person changed the course of history for the good of all. We have plenty stories of good people doing great things.

Each One, One Part of the Solution

There is truth in the philosophy “It has to quit getting worse before it can start getting better.” Or, “When you’re in a hole, quit digging.” Perhaps a good response to where we find ourselves these days is to adopt the motto, “First, do no harm.” Refuse to add more fuel to the fires burning, literally and figuratively, out of control everywhere.

  • Take a time out. Don’t storm out, but do leave the situation and let it cool down. You might need a few minutes or a good night’s sleep to see things differently.
  • Determine who owns the problem. Is it something I’ve done or said that set it off? Then an apology is in order. Often the presenting issue is not the issue at all, but rather a symptom of it. What is the problem? And whose problem is it?
  • Don’t match volume for volume. When the other raises the volume, lower yours and talk more slowly and softly.
  • Refrain from exchanging insults. Though this negative behavior is often modeled on social media and in movies and television shows, it can quickly destroy the harmony of a village. Eleanor Roosevelt was absolutely right when she said no one could insult her without her permission. Same goes for us.
  • Put an end to conversations that are clearly headed toward conflict with a positive, but firm ending statement such as, “I guess we aren’t going to agree on this.” Or “I care about you too much to let this disagreement get between us.” Then gently, but firmly end the conversation or change the subject. The same principle applies to comment chains on social media. Quit digging.
  • Pray, meditate, journal, go for a long walk, bake something, plant something, and spend time with a friend or pet dog or cat. Do something that has nothing to do with the conflict to give time a chance to heal the wound.

Give Civility A Chance

Humans seem hard-wired to lash out, retaliate, cut off, and resort to physical or mental violence. I would love to see the day when we could answer Rodney King’s famous question with a resounding, “Yes, we can all get along!” Until then, we must decide when is the time to show up with D-Day strength to yell, “ENOUGH!” and when is the time to put forth a new covenant and insist no one leaves the ship (room, meeting) until everyone agrees to the terms. Meanwhile, can we at least be civil toward one another?  Especially toward those with whom we disagree? Can we do that?

Our global village depends on us rising to the challenge.

Thanks for stopping by today. If you’ve found this helpful, pass it along to a friend. If you got it from a friend, you can get your own blogs about good people doing great things in our global village at my website. We need each other. Let’s stay in touch.

Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures covers the Pilgrim’s escape from England and much more of the interaction between them and the Pokanoket people. Available wherever books are sold in paperback, eBook, and audio. (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
Autographed copies available from