Empathy, bigotry, and the tolerance paradox: Can America solve its social impasse?

There are a lot of tough conversations that stand between where America is now and "liberty and justice for all," says Van Jones.

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For many years now, America has been tying itself into an enormous Gordian Knot. In Phrygian mythology, this was an epic tangle of rope that no man could untie, despite great rewards, until Alexander the Great came along and cut it in half with his sword—or so the legend goes. Cutting the Gordian Knot is an expression that has come to mean thinking outside the box or finding a creative loophole when faced with a seemingly impossible problem. America is in one such impossible tangle right now, struck by political division that has bled into devastating social division. So what is the loophole we aren't seeing, asks CNN news commentator Van Jones? He suggests having empathy and understanding for everyone who is affected by the march of progress—not just those who are gaining ground, but those who are losing it. If someone liked America "the way that it was," are they really a bigot? "I think people just want to be witnessed in their struggle without being judged and condemned," he says. There is a limit to empathy, however: you cannot tolerate the intolerant for too long—but having empathy for those who interpret change as scary, and understanding why they think that way, may be the only inroad to untying this great mess. Van Jones is the author of Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.

This Thanksgiving, Disagree Politically without Disrespecting Each Other

The amount of political disagreement in the nation is matched only by righteous indignation. But in order to disagree without disrespecting each other, we need to look hard at our own positions.

Politics & Current Affairs

The amount of political disagreement in the nation is matched only by righteous indignation. But in order to disagree without disrespecting each other, we need to look hard at our own positions, and Van Jones does just that. Exposing liberal hypocrisy on issues like economic self-interest and inclusion, Jones bravely crosses political lines that have come to define our comfort zones. Conservatives, too, need to look closely at where their party has departed from its traditional focus on family, faith, and work ethic. Disagreement is essential in a democracy, but disrespect is tearing at our social fabric. Van's latest book is Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.

Divide and Conquer: The Bipartisan Plan to Break America

Both Republicans and Democrats blame the poor on each side, creating a terrible dissonance in our politics and in our nation's psyche.

Politics & Current Affairs

Log on to just about any comment section or Facebook thread and it won't take long to see some sort of political argument break out. Those on the conservative right tend to blame Mexicans, blacks, and what they perceive as "takers" (i.e., the poor). But while the Left likes to think that it is above that kind of finger-pointing, nothing could be further from the truth. The Left demonize white and rural in both party messaging and in policy: it's a very easy argument to make if you just tally up Hillary Clinton's travel—or lack thereof—to white, rural areas during the 2016 election. So how do we break the cycle? Van Jones shows us the mirror, and we may not like what we see in it. Van's latest book is Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together .

Politics & Current Affairs

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