Chamberlain: Mending the cultural and political divide

Mending the cultural and political divide
By Sen. Roger Chamberlain

Note: this column originally appeared in Press Publications newspapers.

A cross, a ring, and a flag. The cross never comes off, the ring rarely comes off, and the flag stays up and lit at night. These are simple symbols of ideas and institutions that are very important to me — my faith, family and freedom, and I am deeply committed to each.

These are the things that give my life direction and purpose. They represent love, service, happiness, unity, opportunity and doing good. In short, they are reminders that there are things bigger and more important than myself. These are the things that bind me to others.

Of course, I understand the reality of life in this world. There are inexplicable events, great challenges, tragedies and suffering; sometimes bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people.

Like anyone else, I am of course disheartened — if not troubled and confused — when those things we love and care about are threatened. Given the current state of affairs, many people are understandably feeling angry, frustrated, confused. People often speak to me about the current political and cultural divisions and struggles in our nation and state. Some wonder how we arrived at this point, others would like to know how it will ever end.

It has been my observation, through experience and research, that we have much more in common than not; our shared values bind us together. Nonetheless, in our modern culture we may have lost touch with that reality. I submit this is the consequence of spending so much time intensely emphasizing our differences. The irony may be that, the more we focus on our differences, the more separated we become from one another.

How did we get here? Two possibilities: agendas and 24-hour media.

At times, different world views collide. As history and our nature tell us, there are those who are willing to do almost anything to further their agenda. Those people live to create chaos; their cause is furthered by division — only when the whole is deconstructed can it be rebuilt to suit their desires. 

Twenty-four-hour news cycles feed the fire. Access to social media allows everyone to have a voice. With all this access, competition exists to have your story read and your voice heard. In the end, the louder and more outrageous voices tend to win the day.

The good news? In the midst of the chaos and noise, many good people are driving ahead and doing amazing things. There are many examples, but recently I have had the opportunity to witness a few.

U.S. Bank has worked with Phoenix Alternatives, Inc. (PAI) to hire and train people with disabilities, and recently received an award as an Outstanding Disability Employer for their effort.

The Minnetonka School District has created and is executing a plan to help children with dyslexia, and it is helping other students improve their reading ability. 

The Community School of Excellence, an award-winning Hmong charter school, recently had a grand opening of their new campus on Larpenteur Avenue in St. Paul. The staff and community accomplished this while overcoming great challenges and adversity. They would not leave the students behind.

These stories give me hope. So what is the answer to our cultural and political divisions? I like to think about the old Cherokee parable of the Two Wolves: 

A grandfather explains to his grandson that inside each of us, there are two wolves battling for supremacy: one wolf represents humility, love, and kindness; the other, greed, anger, and hatred. 

The grandson asks his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?” 

The grandfather responds, “The one you feed.”