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Editorial: Polarization and disruption

by Josh Kramer


Recently, our editor, Cally Peterson, and I were discussing (over the phone, of course) a speaker we both heard at a co-op meeting several months back. This speaker’s research was examining the growing social and political divisions being experienced not only in the United States, but in several of the most influential countries around the world.

He pointed out how extreme ideological polarization has occurred numerous times over the course of history, to a point where dysfunction was inevitable. But just as the oceans ebb and flow with the tide, so do our politics. As we near extremes, he said, “something” usually happens to bring us back to center. An event, or tragedy, occurs that disrupts the polarization and brings people – brings humanity – together for the better.

Many times, it was war that brought this leveling change. Might COVID-19 be that change today? Might this worldwide pandemic be the thing to redirect our course?

The year 2020 marks 75 years since the end of World War II. During the war, Americans were asked to make sacrifices in many ways. Rationing was one of the ways citizens contributed to the war effort. Many went to war. Rosie the Riveters went to work.

Do you see parallels?

Limit one carton of eggs per customer. Health care workers reusing masks for multiple shifts on the COVID-19 front lines. Essential workers still going to work.

Without devaluing the adverse effects, hardships and frustrations of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can still seek optimism and find a silver lining – the good that follows a crisis.

We can choose to see the best in people. Leaders emerge. We are reminded of what is important – family, friends and human connection. We value our jobs, vocations, food, shelter, education and other things sometimes taken for granted, perhaps even our personal freedoms or democracy. I encourage you to read this month’s Teen-2-Teen column, written by Mandan High School senior Anne Kesler, to hear a similar perspective from one of our great youth.

And we are already witnessing countless acts of kindness, strength, determination, purpose, unity, resilience and resolve, with more coming to light each passing day. North Dakota Living can be a platform to share these stories, and we’re asking our readers to help us identify such valiant acts of service and contributions to community in next month’s Reader Reply question. (See page 25 for submission information.)

Years from now, past this pandemic, we will be able to look back on this time with pride in our people. If the speaker referenced in this column was right, and this disruption creates an opportunity for enhanced solidarity, let’s take it. I am not suggesting we will disagree less. But perhaps we can disagree better. Perhaps we can return to an era where decisionmakers work together, civility is revered, good ideas are recognized, and it matters not who gets the credit.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at jkramer@ndarec.com.