cj#1169,rn,sm> Rosa Zubizarreta: “Searching for Common Ground”


Richard Moore


I'd like to share with you a wonderful essay by Rosa Zubizarreta.

    "I do believe that we need to find some common ground in
    order to 'move forward' as a country. Yet we may need to
    work long and hard for that common ground. I do not believe
    that we can find it through denial, or wishful thinking, or
    somehow pretending away the existence of the 'other half' of
    American voters -- regardless of the 'half' to which one
    happens to belong."   - from the essay

In my 'Envisioning a successful movement' I talked about the
central importance of 'harmonization' among movements, even
those which consider one another adversaries.  I've already
received a considerable number of very favorable responses
to those ideas, from activists all over the world, and the
follow-up discussion, particularly on WSN, has been useful.

Rosa brings a new dimension to this discussion.  Instead of
presenting a political treatise, she takes us with her on a
journey into the land of 'seeing the other side' and 'seeing
the problem from the whole'.


To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••,
From: Marguerite M Hampton <•••@••.•••>
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 14:08:57 -0800

--------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Rosa Zubizarreta <•••@••.•••>
To: Marguerite M Hampton <•••@••.•••>
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 13:50:15 -0800
Subject: response to meeting + essay

Searching for Common Ground: Post-Election 2000

By Rosa Zubizarreta  <•••@••.•••>

Like many people, I was moved by Vice-President Al Gore's concession
speech to the United States citizenry. I admire his statesmanship,
and respect his call for unity. At the same time, to be quite honest,
I must admit that I am having a very difficult time considering
George W. Bush as my president.

As I search my heart, I realize that this means I actually have
something in common with many Bush supporters. After all, I have
heard many of them say that they have had a very difficult time
considering Bill Clinton as their president during the last eight

Nonetheless, I am concerned when I hear Democrats talk about "payback
time". I do not believe that two wrongs ever makes a right (except
maybe in politics!). Seriously speaking, I believe that whenever we
respond in kind, we are in danger of losing our souls, and becoming
the mirror image of whatever it is we feel we are battling.

Let's consider for a moment what an honest and realistic "high
road" might look like. I do believe that we need to find some common
ground in order to "move forward" as a country. Yet we may need to
work long and hard for that common ground. I do not believe that we
can find it through denial, or wishful thinking, or somehow
pretending away the existence of the "other half" of American voters
-- regardless of the "half" to which one happens to belong.

Whatever common ground we do find must be bedrock, rather than
quicksand. It must grow out of something that we can all truly agree
upon. It may be that, at this point, all that we can agree on is that
neither side feels honored or understood by the other. In fact, it
appears that both sides fear and distrust each other greatly. It may
make some folks uncomfortable to admit this, but there is always
value in acknowledging our present reality, however painful it might

Many folks have commented that, in their efforts to win the votes of
the American people, both major party candidates made a concerted
effort during their campaigns to appeal to the middle and to downplay
any differences. It seems ironic that these efforts ended up
contributing to the long contest period we have just concluded. We
appear to have come up against a natural law: whatever conflict we
seek to avoid instead of transform, will only return to haunt us.

Some of those who believe that we have "won" may be tempted to easy
glee. On the other hand, some of those who believe that we have
"lost" may be equally tempted to simply renew our efforts for our own
side, setting our sights on the next elections two and four years
down the road. This is both completely necessary and fully legitimate
within our present system. Yet what should be obvious to all of us by
now, regardless of which side of the fence we are on, is the extent
to which our adversarial system of political contest is not designed
to bridge differences.

Our current disagreements about the election are only the tip of the
iceberg, reflecting a larger breach in world views that we ignore at
our peril. Like many others, I find the Supreme Court decision
unprincipled to the point of immorality. This Supreme Court has
repeatedly upheld putting people to death, under the banner of
"state's rights", although "unequal standards" with regard to the
death penalty are rampant throughout our country. Yet the same court
felt squeamish about hand-counting votes, because the standards for
doing so happen to vary from state to state.

At the same time, if I am to be honest, I need to recognize that ever
since Roe vs. Wade, a significant portion of the population of this
country has felt much the same way that I now feel about the Supreme
Court. While I may not agree with them, I do not believe it helps to
ignore that fact.

It need not undermine our own principles in the slightest to
recognize that, even with all the uncast and uncounted votes, it is
quite probable that at least 45% of the voting population really did
vote for the current president-elect. In the spirit of the nationwide
non-violent protests that have been called for January, we might do
well to remember that the point of non-violence is to inspire a
change of heart in our opponent, not merely to outnumber them.

I do agree with those, from left, right, and center, who point out
that the divisions in our society are exacerbated and exploited by
cynical "divide and conquer" strategies, set in motion by those who
believe that they stand to gain from a divided population. Yet that
recognition alone does not resolve the problem. We need to find the
courage to address our differences in open and constructive ways, so
that we can turn our attention from fighting with each other to
addressing the real problems that we face as a nation -- and maybe
even the real problems that we face as a species.

Both major parties in the political debate agree that the system
needs reform. It seems likely that we shall now discover some reforms
to which we can all agree. Maybe we will agree that all citizens of
this country should have equal access to modern voting equipment,
instead of some of us having access only to broken-down, outdated
machinery. Maybe we will agree that all citizens should have equal
access to voting in a timely manner, instead of some facing only a 20
minute wait while others stand for seven hours in line only to be
turned away illegally at closing time. If so, those might be some
hugely worthwhile outcomes of this lengthy process.

Yet many of us, on all sides, feel an even deeper call. We know that
there is a great need, not just to reform the system, but to
transform it. While we rarely speak of it, I believe that we are all
aware that the course we are on is not sustainable. People of all
faiths agree that a system based on unfettered greed rather than
ethical values is not acceptable. And while scientists may disagree
about the details, there is widespread agreement on the basics: a way
of life that violates the principles of Nature and the cycles of the
Earth is not designed to last.

While the folks who think "green" may have some highly valuable
contributions to make toward this end, the need for transformation
goes beyond any one political party.  Sustainability includes more
than learning to live in harmony with the rest of the natural world.
It also includes learning how to honor each other as human beings, in
a way that can engage with the full range of difference among us,
including the differences that have come to the foreground in this
recent election process.

 From one perspective, recent events have shown the strength of our
political process. At the same time, I believe that we have also been
shown the limitations of our current system. The last two months have
shown that our political process does not appear to be designed to
handle extremely close calls in a way that feels fair and legitimate
to all sides. The last forty years have shown that our existing
political processes may not be sufficient to heal the divisions that
exist in our society.

Each one of us has the responsibility to follow our own conscience,
and to seek to advance what we believe to be in the best interests of
the whole. Yet I seriously doubt that any of us can really know what
is best for the whole, without finding ways to enter into a deeper
dialogue with one another. And I know that, in the end, ALL of us
lose whenever we limit ourselves to playing a "win-lose" game.

I do believe that it is possible for all of us, whether we identify
as Republican or Democrats, Green or Independents, to work together
to create new ways to address the problems we face as a society. At
the same time, in order to do so, we need forums and processes
designed to evoke listening, respect, and mutual understanding on all
sides, instead of competition, self-righteousness, and closed minds
and hearts.

We all know that the technological resources exist in our country for
us to have modern and efficient voting systems in place in every
district, regardless of its level of affluence. Likewise, the tools
for facilitating dialogue and collaborative problem-solving exist
today, even though they are not yet in widespread use in the public

We have created an economy based on narrow self-interest. As a
result, the abundance of our technology has been mostly focused on
the private sector, and has not reached the voting booths of the
economically disenfranchised. In a similar manner, the tools of
collaborative problem-solving and facilitation have largely been
limited to large corporations reinventing their cultures to compete
ever more effectively for greater concentrations of wealth. Their
potential for helping us to create sustainable and equitable human
societies has yet to be unleashed.

We know no human being, no country, no corporation is an island.
Ultimately, all of us depend upon the well-being of the whole. And
that whole is composed of all of us, in all of our complex and
multi-faceted diversity.

Our path is not an easy one. Yet the challenge we face is not to
erase our differences, but instead to engage with them, to engage
with each other in an honest and constructive manner. For our hope
lies in the transformation that takes place each time we recognize
the gift, the call for inner growth, embedded in that challenge.