Denver, CO – Mark Gerzon, president of the Mediator Foundation gave a riveting lecture last Tuesday, November 1, 2016, discussing the topic of his book titled, “The Reunited States of America: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide,”. His book has an intriguing twist where he focuses on what will happen after the presidential election and the conflicts that have stemmed from it between the two major political parties.
Gerzon, a Harvard graduate, has had a storied career in mediating conflict resolution working with both the US House of Representatives and the United Nations development program. Standing in the Sie Complex in the school of international studies, he is surrounded by a small but intrigued crowd of both young and old students and professors. He starts off the lecture by asking a simple but profound question.
“How many of you love your country?” asked Gerzon.
Almost every person in the room raised their hand passionately. This question helped set the stage for Gerzon to tell the audience a little bit about himself. He went on to tell the audience he was born and raised in Indiana in the late 1940’s and 50’s. Growing up he thought loving his country meant believing in traditional conservative values because that’s all he was surrounded by in his little town. However, when he moved to Boston to study at Harvard in the 1960’s he realized that his views for the most part were sexist, racist and bigoted and he quickly became a radical liberal. He made the point that he switched his views because that’s what he thought loving his country meant.
Gerzon realized after many years of fighting for liberal values that he was only contributing to the partisan divide that makes up our government. This is what drove him to become a mediator and not pledge allegiance to any party. He concluded that loving his country meant trying to bring the two political parties together to build a productive relationship and not just a winner and loser. This helped lead the slightly aw-struct audience to his next point.
“How do you love something that is divided?” questioned Gerzon, to which most of the crowd paused in a moment of silent reflection.
One of the reasons he thinks the country is divided is because the governmental and political system this country runs on was created by a couple of old white men over 200 years ago. Both liberals and conservatives are not helping this country because they are too focused on beating the other one in elections and legislation passed rather than building a functional relationship where issues can be solved. He hopes this election which he described as “embarrassing and disgraceful” will make Americans see that dramatic changes need to happen in the debate, campaign and political party process.
“We can’t ask the founding fathers advice on today’s issues,” said Gerzon.
He stated that their needs to be more active citizens who are ready to learn the perspective of other people and parties with differing views. Gerzon argued that active citizens need to be civically engaged but it’s hard when our current system does not let every citizen participate in decisions that will mold this country.
“There needs to be a new civic innovation for democracy to work” he stated.
An analogy is made by Gerzon connecting a potentially new civic innovation to the iPhone. Whenever the new iPhone is being designed there are a multitude of different teams that compete to design the best one. After the teams are finished they combine all the best traits of each iPhone to create the best product they could conceive. Gerzon argues that if we applied this to the legislative process we would see dramatic improvements economically, socially and internationally.
“If this can happen then we can be the re-united states of America,” Gerzon concludes.