Editorial :: Getting Along in Difficult Times

Child's cupped hands holding the bud of a rose beginning to flower.

A friend of mine on social media posted a question today that preoccupies many of us.

Why can’t we just get along?

It’s a good question but a difficult one, as there are many ways to answer that will diverge in vastly different directions.

Below is my reply to that friend, which I later shared on social media. Now I’m sharing it with you.

I hope it helps.

I think it’s important to examine why you feel the need to “get along” as well as considering what it is specifically that makes you feel unable to sit with the discomfort caused by “not getting along.”

I bring this up because history has shown us numerous instances where friction and social discomfort had the potential to stop genocide, but the societies in which these actions were happening—often in full view of other citizens—chose to get along instead of raising alarm, which, ultimately caused an unnecessary loss of precious life as well as the permanent warping of those societies who had preferred social niceties over direct action.

The great men and women who have used the tactic of non-violence to change social norms did not (and do not) get along with people in societies that have done great harm to their fellow humans.

It is a mistake to view these people as saints. MLK Jr. didn’t get along with a whole lot of people. If you read more about his life, you’d find that he was constantly pointing out the ill actions of people, cities, companies, and countries, and would visibly work against these entities for the greater good.

The same could be said for Gandhi and Mother Teresa—as well as many other figures who fought for people’s rights against societies’ norms.

Right now in the U.S. and the world, we find ourselves living in one of those moments in which the future of entire vulnerable populations will be ultimately decided upon by you, the individual. For anyone who ever said that they would have fought the Nazis or struck back at Stalinist Russia had they been there, you are standing in the middle of the same ethical dilemma that other societies have faced to good and bad ends for centuries:

Do we go along and hope things will be better for some of us at the expense of others? Or do we go through the pain, discomfort, and ultimately transformative experience of exacting change for a great many people, knowing in the interim that making these higher choices will disrupt families and long-held friendships in the process?

If you have been afforded the luxury of being able to ask this question of yourself and your community, you have a great deal more privilege than those who will—and are already—the object of great anger, poisonous rhetoric, dehumanizing discrimination, and the will to violence.

But for those of you graced with choice, you have a decision to make that no one can make for you—and “getting along” is one part of that question.

Meanwhile, history awaits.

Smiling German Resistance fighter Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl helped create one of the most daring resistance movements in Nazi Germany while many fellow citizens maintained their silence. Scholl was executed for treason at the age of 22.

Photo Credit: [Top] “Child’s Hands Holding White Rose for Peace” by D. Sharon Pruitt / Wikimedia. [Bottom] Graphic design based on photograph of Sophie Scholl. by Courtenay Bluebird for Bluebird Blvd.