All in the good name of “unity,” a great many good people feel frustrated today, hurt and angry and maybe even hopeless. People whose hope for a way out of our great national darkness are pinned on Bernie Sanders are angry that he’s facing pushback from other Democrats and are convinced that those who are pushing back don’t care about the issues that — for many of them — are matters of life and death. People who share the Democrats’ goals but believe Bernie isn’t the one to be advancing them are angry at the hostility of some (not all) Sanders supporters (real or robotic) and are convinced that Bernie at the top of the ticket will damage the party and invigorate the GOP. And neither side can understand why its position isn’t perfectly obvious to everyone.

In my admittedly-not-entirely-humble opinion, we’ve bought ourselves two nearly-insuperable problems before we even get around to discussing the merits of either side’s arguments:

1. By diving straight into the quest for “unity” without bothering to seek consensus, we’ve turned primary season into a combination shouting match and slugfest. Social media has conditioned us to believe that reach+volume=winning, and neither the ratings/clickbait competitions we’ve been forced to call “debates” ever since someone decided the League of Women Voters was too partisan to run real debates nor the opposition’s bullying and intimidation tactics refute this.

2. When the primaries become a shouting match, no one’s listening to anyone. So even when we finally do achieve some kind of “unity,” whether through one side’s grudging concession or one candidate literally being the last man or woman standing, approximately half the Democratic electorate will be embittered and angry, because the party refused to listen to what mattered most to them.

We need to listen to one another. We need to put down the bullhorns, forget about “pwning” those whose vision is different, and sit down at the same table with those we disagree with, with open minds and hearts and a willingness to admit that no one of us has all the answers, but that we each have some of them.

Put another way — we need to model the kind of country we want to create. Because why would anyone ever believe we’re sincere about bringing about a world where all are heard, where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, and where bullying and gaslighting are no longer tools of power, if we can’t put down our own bludgeons long enough to have a real dialogue with the people on our own side of the aisle?

Oh, and we can’t afford to take it for granted that we’re “listening,” just because sound is entering our ears and we can’t manage to ignore it. Listening is an active process and an ongoing one — and let’s face it, even in ordinary conversations, how many times are we just “listening” for our chance to jump in with our own two cents’ worth? (I am claiming no special skills in this regard, incidentally — a large part of my training, in my courses in spiritual direction, is in active listening, deep listening, and there are times I’m convinced a goldfish would catch on quicker than I am.)

In this regard, I have a proposal, albeit a slightly nebulous one — I’m hoping that someone out there is listening (see what I did there?) and can add a few specifics or offer an alternative. The Carter Center (, founded by former President Jimmy Carter, has a wealth of expertise in “waging peace,” in encouraging dialogue. (We also have a few other Democratic former Presidents who are not exactly slouches in the diplomacy and negotiation department, but I confess to a certain amount of reverence for Mr. Carter.) Let the Center host a dialogue. Formal, informal, summit, grassroots, I don’t know. But let it happen. Let’s sit down around the table, open our hearts, and find real unity.