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the French, “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” It is not that the American ethos does not value the idea that all people are created equal or that we should join in common purpose. These values seem to have become– at this present time–simply too far out of reach or too much to ask for. When life itself seems at risk, let alone one’s pursuit to live life as he or she deems fit, it is hard for people to even imagine values that demand people to see each other as equals and in common relation. The anger of the current moment, however, did not arise from the experience of the past three months. The social, economic, and public health crisis was simply the pressure cooker that allowed it to cook much faster than it would have otherwise. This fire of discontent has been stoked for years, and the cooking has been uneven, burning different parts at different times. Just as the anger of the current moment has been simmering for years, it will not subside in a moment– even if the news outlets change headlines quickly. The fire of discontent will not dissipate by shifting direction or by creating distraction. Anger like this needs to be let out. The pressure is just too great to think that it can be held without release. Yet, it need not be destructive. Fire is only dangerous when it is uncontrolled. The person who tends his or her own fire well can use it to melt the hardest of metals to be fashioned as tools. When people are angry, more important than providing solutions is providing an outlet for people to be heard. Not only for people to speak–as important as the voice that cries bitterly are the ears that are inclined to hear it. We must create a way for individuals to encounter each other. We can no longer live alone, side by side. Good fences do not make good neighbors. It is not enough to read other people’s tweets or learn about others through books or diversity training. We need to hear other people’s voices, see their faces. And not the collective others, individuals. Listening does not demand agreeing or conforming to a compromised middle–it means being open to the idea that another person lives differently but lives nonetheless. This idea should not be a threat to the listener or his or her life choices, but an affirmation that choices are possible. “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is not one size fits all motto, and when we recognize that, we might also be ready to call for equality and fraternity as well. As appeared in Forbes on June 1, 2020.

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