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Builders step up or destroyers will step in

Every month when I prepare to write an opinion piece, my first thought is to go on a rant about any one of many issues that I’m upset about. It is the easiest place to go. I have to choose optimism and hope versus complaining.

Every month when I prepare to write an opinion piece, my first thought is to go on a rant about any one of many issues that I’m upset about. It is the easiest place to go. I have to choose optimism and hope versus complaining.

The world is increasingly defined by division; left versus right, black versus white, Jewish versus Muslim, etc. It seems we're entrenched in a mindset of "us versus them," where every issue is viewed through a binary lens. This divisive thinking is tearing our communities and our country apart.

But the root of the problem runs deeper than we realize. While it's easy to point fingers and blame others for societal ills, we might have to take some responsibility for our role in perpetuating this cycle of conflict. By constantly vilifying the "other," we relinquish our obligation to find real solutions.

I don't want to undermine the importance of standing up for what you believe in. But we're going to be more effective in advancing our causes once we frame things differently. Instead of us versus them, what if we understood it as all of us versus extremism?

Us, the overwhelming majority on all sides of almost any issue (who are not hateful, who do not deal in absolutes, who recognize the dignity of all), versus them, those who fall prey to extremist thinking that hijacks the agenda and our lives along with it.

Note that the enemy here is a mindset, not a person.

What if, instead of pitting ourselves against each other, we united against extremism? The vast majority of people, regardless of their beliefs, reject hate and extremism. By framing the issue in this way, we can shift the narrative from perpetual conflict to constructive problem-solving.

This shift requires a change in mindset. Extremists wake up every day with a mission to advance their agenda proactively and passionately while moderates often remain passive. The moderate 80 per cent would be well served to become active builders, working to bridge divides and find common ground.

Daniel Lubetzky, founder of buildersmovement.org introduced a new initiative that aims to bring together "builders" from around the world to replace extremism with practical problem-solving. Over 250 leaders have joined, along with millions of citizens committed to becoming builders in their communities.

The challenges are real. Hyper-partisan politicians spend more time sowing division to raise money than trying to address their constituents' needs. Cronyism, special interests, political parties that care more about amassing power and scoring points against the other than actually solving problems.

Staying true to our values in a divisive world is no easy task. We must cultivate curiosity, compassion, creativity, and courage — the four Cs of a builder's mindset. Empowering individuals to effect change in their own communities is essential to our success.

As Mr. Lubetzky says in his recent TEDtalk, “Some of you may disagree. And that does not worry me. What worries me is that many of you will agree but will do nothing about it.  If builders do not step up, destroyers will step in. And some of the worst chapters that we’ve witnessed in history will repeat themselves. But if all of us recognize the power that every one of us has every single day, with every human interaction, to look at each other in the eyes, to give each other the blessing of kindness and the assumption of positive intent, not only are we going to break the shackles that the extremes have placed on humanity, we're going to prevail in writing one of the most beautiful chapters that have ever been built in human history.”




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