2016: We Need More Healing, Not More Division

This article by CCLP senior fellow Matthew Dowd was originally published on The Huffington Post.

There is an old Cherokee Native American legend about the two wolves that feels once again apropos for today’s conversation in our country (I have cited this before in a previous column), and the emergence of the Summer of Trump. The parable is that a young boy comes up to this grandfather, who is the chief of the Cherokee Tribe to learn about life. The Chief says to him, “The most important principle to know is that within each of us are two wolves — a bad wolf and a good wolf. The bad wolf represents anger, arrogance, division, ego and envy. The good wolf represents compassion, love, unity, humility and acceptance. And these two wolves are in a battle every day inside you.”

The grandson asks the chief, “Well, which wolf wins?” The Chief replies solemnly, “The one you feed.”

As I survey our country’s politics and communications, I increasingly worry that candidates and others are feeding the bad wolf within — within themselves, ourselves and the body of the country. Instead of attempting healing and uniting us in one common vision, some leaders are exacerbating the divisions and distrust. Instead of using our frustration and desire for more than the status quo to build a constructive dream, they are pushing us all toward more destructive patterns. They are calling us towards the dark within us, and away from the light.

Today, we are hearing warlike messages that pit white against Latino, black against white, Republican versus Democrat, rich against the poor or middle class, immigrant versus native, men against women and even generational young against old. We hear constantly that our problems are their fault. If it weren’t for “them” everything would be better. This has been a disturbing development for the last few years, but it seems to have been taken to a whole new level where division is rewarded, and unity laughed at.

Real, authentic leaders seek to heal, not to dig deeper canyons of differences within our communities. Yes, today we have great hunger for the truth and for strength in our leaders and our country. But so often meanness and bullying is seen as being honest and strong, while expressions of kindness, acceptance and assistance is viewed as weak. We forget that the strongest leaders in history preached a path of love and one that had healing at its core. It is peace found — and founded internally and externally — that is the greatest struggle, not the warring of factions to achieve some temporary victory.

As I have watched the rise of Donald Trump, as well as others preaching a politics of division and finger pointing, I understand the frustration and anger it represents. I, too, am tired of the current politics where it is hard to trust people and the institutions they represent, and know we need disruption of the status quo. But the answer isn’t in dividing us into geographic or demographic subgroups where we line up against fellow Americans. The answer lies in creating or discovering a vision that binds us all together and heals the divides that have worsened over the years.

We need to each acknowledge that there is a battle going on between the bad wolf and the good wolf. And we need to begin to starve the bad wolf, and feed the good wolf so that it gains strength and can emerge victorious. We each must step back from us versus them and embrace a language of unity and acceptance.

In the end, the only enemy that really exists is the bad wolf within each of us. We are in an epic battle, and our country and its values are at stake. It is time to prepare a banquet each day for the good wolf within us — that is what we all are deeply hungry for.

There you have it.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent.