How to Heal a Country

How to Heal a Country

We have taken some time to reflect on the events that transpired in our nation's capital last week. Both Summer and I were shocked, yet paradoxically not surprised, by what happened in Washington. As concerned citizens of a country in crisis—but also as individuals who have spent 15+ years working on issues of peacebuilding, conflict prevention, and social justice—we felt compelled to share some thoughts and resources with our community.


Ideas of peacebuilding are often applied primarily in the context of war and violent conflict, but there is much more to the concept of building true and lasting peace. Now, more than ever, we need to start looking at peacebuilding as a system-wide process to create a more just society in the United States.   

Peace is not simply the absence of violence. It is a measure of societal resilience and equality; it is creating an environment where everyone has the opportunity to flourish. There are now ways to measure these complex societal factors through a new vision of peace called  Positive Peace. What happened on Wednesday in the US can be directly related to deterioration in specific measures of Positive Peace.  

Specifically, these declining measures are a decrease in the quality of news and information we consume (mainly through intake of non-traditional sources, such as social media), increases in group grievances, and increases in social and economic inequality. In short, the forces that created the events at the Capitol last week have been simmering for years. 


How to Heal a Country



The first thing is to examine our thinking. We need to start viewing our societies as systems—interdependent and complex—that need holistic problem solving applied. This includes systemic racism and addressing growing economic equality, among many others.

We also have to understand and attend to the growing identity conflict of our “Two Americas”. Identity conflict is often the hardest type of conflict to solve because it is directly related to our sense of self and how we create meaning in the world. This means allowing space for each other. This does not include violent extremists, but those who come in good faith with views different from our own. This accommodation will begin to allow us to identify shared areas of common ground and understanding. There is simply no other way forward for our country. Two groups doing a great job of this are: Braver Angels and Living Room Conversations


Luckily, there is hope. When we work to strengthen the root causes of our divisions, so many other good things can happen. Countries with strong systems and high levels of Positive Peace also have higher GDP growth, better measures of wellbeing and happiness, better performance on ecological measures, and better measures of inclusion. It’s all possible, but the change needs to happen now and inside each one of us.