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America The Divided 

I have sat long enough scratching my head in dismay as I listen to very angry people scream about taking back the government. I watch a woman's face distorted in rage scream, "Go back home!" to a group of Mexican-Americans who are attempting to talk to their congressman. Politicians, rather than decry this type of communication, take advantage of this lack of civility and use it to get re-elected.

It's time to step back and take a broader view of where we are headed. What is the quality of the current style of discourse? There is still a mighty hunger that people feel for genuine conversation, yet we have constructed enormous structural barriers to having it. There's a built-in bias toward debate and a polarization that the party system provides and the news media encourages. I believe right now it is at an all time high. Our legislators feel they can score points by encouraging this venomous interchange and a "proud of it" attitude.

It's time to rediscover the principals of dialogue that can produce a deep shift in our understanding of the nature of power. Dialogue is a leveler. Dialogue in its fullest expression enables the emergence of genuine collective leadership whose highest aim is ultimately to make a contribution - to give, not to take. A conversation where people are essentially trying to extract something from others moves away from dialogue. William Isaacs said, "Power that respects no one but includes everyone, that calls for the best in people, and that evokes great creativity, is love. Dialogue can unleash the power of love."

No matter what we think of President Obama, we must not give up the dream and vision of genuine change that elected him. We must bring this about and not depend on any politician to do it for us. If we lead, they will follow.

While we argue about whether or not climate change is man made, Bangladesh is disappearing under water. Elsewhere people are waging wars over the scarcity of water. Others get rich on the buying and selling of this precious commodity.

Insurance companies, according to the Center for American Progress, are raising their rates 15 to 20 percent in most states as we speak because they can. They have strong lobbies and little or no competition. Such important decisions await us, while our legislators argue over the size and position of the table where a conversation on health care is to take place.

We have nothing to fear by creating a safe container where people feel free to give their ideas. Often we operate from memory, develop a partial understanding and see it as complete. Or we may hold rigidly to our views. These interpretations blind us and limit our freedom to think.

And think we must! We are intimately tied to the needs and perspectives of others. We are capable of creating dynamic dialogue and dealing with the complex problems of our times.

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