Carolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, appeared on PBS News Hour yesterday to discuss the risk of escalating political violence in the wake of the recent pipe bomb incidents.
Lukensmeyer, and additional guest Joanne Freeman, professor of history and American Studies at Yale, were asked to provide a historical context for our current social and political discord, and then to comment on what it will take to get us past this moment of acute tension and restore a sense of civility, sanity, and national unity.
Lukensmeyer opined that we can not rely on our elected political leaders to resolve the current crisis, and that, as in the past at such historical inflection points, it will require the efforts of we the American people to create a movement of common decency to pursue a common good. Hearkening back to the extreme racial tensions of the 19060’s, she pointed out that it was an unelected leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the will of millions of American civilians, which guided us through the Civil Rights movement and avoided a potential revolution.
“I think we’re at that moment again,” Lukensmeyer stated, “where we can’t count at the moment on our current elected officials to shift this rhetoric. But what we see across the country, and it’s very hopeful, Americans of both parties, in red states, blue states, purple states, they’re actually coming together in one on one conversations, in small group conversations, and setting up the conditions, ‘how do we get past this divide. We want to be past this divide.’”
Lukensmeyer’s comments should serve as a rallying cry for that vast majority of Americans who are fed up with the polarization and demonization that has come to characterize our social and political discourse. It is not the politicians who will lead us through this quagmire - rather it is our responsibility to work together as a populace to find points of convergence, to rise to a higher common ground, and to make it clear to our elected officials that the will of the people is what puts them in office and that will is not dictated by special interests or party lines.
View the PBS News Hour interview with Carolyn Lukensmeyer here, or by clicking the image above.
And learn more about the work of the National Institute for Civil Discourse here.