Mary Peltola, candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, has said that in approaching a divided Congress she will keep in mind the “Yup’ik teaching that, in order to be productive and successful, you have to come at your challenges from a place of love. … Certainly when you’re coming to a very emotionally charged discussion, you can’t show up with a list of demands, looking at everyone around the table as your enemy.”
She demonstrated the power of a “place of love” during her five years in the Alaska House when she was able to work across the aisle with Republicans and Democrats to address human needs throughout the state.
Her voice in the U.S House of Representatives and that of others in Congress seeking to legislate for the good of the whole will be critical to the survival of our democracy during these dangerous times.
Mary Peltola’s Yup’ik principle is not new. As a nation we were created from “a place of love.” On July 4, 1776, representatives of the original 13 states joined together to recognize our unifying humanity when they signed the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
During the 246 years since our nation was founded, we have come perilously close to losing that national identity — most notably when President Abraham Lincoln fought the Civil War to protect the unity of our nation, and to free it of the scourge of slavery. At his second inaugural address in 1865, Lincoln declared, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on; … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.” Lincoln understood the concept of acting from “a place of love,” and the hard work required to find that place. His cabinet has been described as a team of rivals.
The ability to act from a place of love and find just and effective compromise that achieves the public interest is not weakness. Instead, it requires strength and maturity. Like steel, this ability is strong because it bends.
Parents who watch their teenagers gain adulthood see them move from a social life of cliques and enemies to a time when they are more generous and inclusive of others. Education and athletic teamwork contribute to this process. When people become adults, most come to realize that different people hold different views, and that to function constructively as part of their communities, they need to be generous and tolerant — to operate from a place of love.
Members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who ganged up with others to populate the Jan. 6 insurrection, obviously had never reached the adult maturity of Mary Peltola’s place of love. They fell for the “Big Lie” and found their self-esteem in the clique-like cult of Donald Trump, meeting as early as November to plan the insurrection. Now their leaders have been charged with sedition.
Awful as it is to say, the conservative clique of the U.S. Supreme Court has not acted that differently. As Linda Greenhouse wrote in her knowledgeable opinion piece for The New York Times, “They did it because they could. It was as simple as that.”
In their swift and outright repeal of Roe v. Wade, the conservative clique flaunted its power, stripping women of rights to control their own bodies. Though he joined the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts argued for a more careful approach, pointing out that Roe had been the law of the land for 49 years. But, no, the majority chose to flaunt its power and, in effect, scoff at the people of the nation they served.
Life in a democracy must not be a war between sides, but, rather, a civil and respectful process of give and take between representatives of people with different views. If the United States is to remain a democracy, “of the people, by the people and for the people,” today’s leaders must include people like Mary Pelota who can contribute the maturity and strength of a place of love.
Janet McCabe and her husband David came to Alaska in 1964. She is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a member of Alaska Common Ground and Commonwealth North.
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