Britta Gustafson: Ready for peaceful discord | AspenTimes.com
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Britta Gustafson: Ready for peaceful discord

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” ~ Ronald Reagan

For some of us, it’s felt like years, for others a lifetime of miscommunication, or non-communication, even heated arguments, and some fights. We know the instigating factors, and some will always remain, but perhaps we might be ready to begin to let go of the past and find a way, from within, to support moving forward in a healthy productive way.

Regardless of where our allegiances lie, whatever we have been doing on a national level hasn’t been working. Even here in our small town, the caterwaul of 2020 has reverberated across all lines, affecting families and friendships, and our community is still convulsing from the harsh discordance.

And at this time, right here on a planet that isn’t healthy — figuratively or literally — we can decide to obstruct, or to usher in the opportunity to become the best versions of ourselves, whatever that may mean.

It feels like hard work to look at what we have today and find contentment and a search for peace, rather than to pine for what we did or didn’t have before. But as Regan so gracefully explained, we can peacefully coexist in disagreement while respecting and even loving one another.

It does take effort to reconcile because of course it’s easier to dig in our heels or to give up. Perhaps a good place to start might be by asking ourselves, is this a community, a country, a world we truly want to live in, if we keep heading in our same diverted directions?

I don’t believe we can just ignore the truths, the feelings, stress and outrage; but in those feelings there is a way to activate accountability without lashing out.

We have bounced back from divisiveness before. Hey Snowmass, we all know how challenging it was to accept and make the most of our Base Village while learning to enjoy the space together. And we will find ways to achieve a sense of control over future changes too.

Exposing and confronting our own cultural vulnerabilities feels like another step in the right direction, and the spotlights have been shining on all that is wrong in our society of late. But it seems like standing behind archaic beliefs can only block our individual ownership, and if there was ever a time for a reset, it’s this moment, when the storms have exposed all our fears and doubts and tensions.

I’m not suggesting that this is the time to bring a spoon to the knife fight, we can still be bold while choosing resolution, not dissolution. Let’s just take our utensils to the table, share a meal — perhaps via Zoom — and together swallow the big pill of pride and chase it with a slice of humble pie.

We have to rebuild so why reassemble another towering house of cards? Trust in one another has to be restored, but for that to happen, actions need to be seen as well as words being heard. And that’s not just at the top but right here in our own homes, neighborhoods, and community. Compromise, by definition, must be mutual, calling on us all to make a sacrifice.

I believe we can do that, because I just listened to a group of Aspen Middle School sixth-graders have a healthy debate in which they all had a wide variety of personal opinions, but in the end they remained friends. And if our kids can do it …

By staying committed to avoiding attacks and defensiveness, while accepting individual fallibility, we can learn to “agree to disagree” again, and we can do it while remaining patriotic, civil and kind. Just by agreeing to listen, really really listen. Perhaps we could start by avoiding retweeting snarky comebacks, or making assumptions about intentions. Actually maybe it’s time to just leave tweeting for the birds.

And I think we should also try to accept that there are no right or wrong feelings. Perspective is as unique to the human experience as our individual DNA; and our experiences all differ so dramatically. Although, while how we feel isn’t always a choice, accountability for how we can affect the feelings of those around us, is. Let’s choose to defuse.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind, after all, if we always agree, what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com.


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