For months, analysts have been describing the intertwined nature of America’s two plagues — COVID-19, and political and racial polarization so pronounced that two-thirds of older citizens now see their fellow Americans as the nation's greatest threat.
“The national immunization effort now underway could be leveraged to treat both plagues,” writes Coleman, Director of TC’s Morton Deutsch Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution, and David A. Carten, a change strategist and Director at Stone Cold Systems, in The Hill. “We are now putting boots on the ground for inoculating the nation, and the same efforts can help us begin a process of communal repair.”
Coleman and Carten propose a “great cross-country check-up” in which each person vaccinated also sits with “a professional listener” who asks about “your worries, hopes and ideas for solutions.”
“The combination of receiving protection from the virus and being listened to with respect by someone in authority could offer a powerful, restorative salve to our citizenry,” they write, noting that The Economist’s Democracy Index recently downgraded the U.S. from a “full” to a “flawed democracy.” “The information obtained could then be parsed locally to identify the unique concerns and more popular remedies for those living in our diverse counties and towns.”
The national immunization effort now underway could be leveraged to treat both plagues. We are now putting boots on the ground for inoculating the nation, and the same efforts can help us begin a process of communal repair.
—Peter T. Coleman and David A. Carten in The Hill
Ultimately, Coleman and Carten envision a State of the Union address in which President Biden announces the results of this yearlong “listening and learning tour” and announces the launch of a “National Strategy on Rebuilding Trust in America.”
“This initiative…could serve to reset our course and point us toward a new era of functional democracy,” they conclude, but add, in a rare backward glance at this strange period: “For time to be in our favor, we must act now. Decisions are being made in hours, not weeks, and such an opportunity, if missed, will be gone for good.”
[Read the full text of the piece by Coleman and Carten in The Hill.]