To be an ally means that you won’t get in the way, and, if you are able to, you’ll try to help.
To become an accomplice, though, means that you’ve risked something, sacrificed something and put yourself on the hook as well.
We need more allies, in all the work we do. Allies can open doors and help us feel a lot less alone.
But finding an accomplice–that’s an extraordinary leap forward.
I thought immediately about my fellow Better Angels volunteers. We have all committed time, talent, and treasure to the depolarizing of America. We do it in public, in front of audiences and cameras, to reporters and members of our communities. We openly challenge the prevailing culture of ad hominem, oversimplification, and overgeneralization. We all come to it from our own internal optimism and hope. But in the face of entrenched polarization and a culture of self-protection above all, we could never make any headway as individuals. It is only together—as mutual accomplices—that we can truly claim and exercise our collective agency.
I feel even more buoyed by Ozan’s latest post. He describes a series of well-known studies showing that people will organize themselves into in-groups and out-groups with remarkable loyalty, even around random and arbitrary distinctions like taste in abstract art. This, of course, carries grave and important implications for prejudice and discrimination. Ozan then points to two exemplars of the opposite, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama. In their most famous orations (see links), these remarkable leaders speak directly to what unites us as the foundation for solving our problems, rather than what divides us.
MLK: The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
Obama: The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states.
I get goosebumps just reading the words.
It really feels like a loving subversion—of cynicism, scarcity, antagonism, and fear.
Who’s not better for that?