The bogeyman is a hoax; it’s some made up creature that spans multiple cultures, albeit with various other names, used to frighten children into good behavior. We’ve seen children reduced to tears, fearful of the threat of mythical bogeyman. But this trick is not just for kids. Consider the adult version of the bogeyman. It starts with concepts of good and bad, left wing and right wing, for and against. Even Halloween has a polarizing tagline of trick or treat.These are polarizing abstractions that give rise to the adult bogeyman. Categorical opposites are demonized and loathed. As adults, we’ve turned ordinary people into an army of bogeymen.Our prioritized fear against this threat has left us with an unpredictable irrationality and inability to move forward.
Crap. I had a decent hypothesis and opening for this blog post, it fits with a Halloween theme, but now what? I put the bogeyman in the story and now I see no way out of this existential crisis. I lucked out. This week, I saw Van Jones in conversation with Alexis Madrigal at a City Arts event. Van Jones described on stage and in his book his friendship with Newt Gingrich.
The former Speaker once told me something profound, as we discussed ways to think about bipartisanship: “Your ‘ninety percent enemy’ can still be your ‘ten percent friend’ – on every point where you agree.” Newt and I still passionately disagree on 90 or more the issues. But in those places where our views align, we look for ways to work together. When i comes to topics like fixing the justice system or ending the opioid epidemic, we owe it to ordinary people to try.¹
The concept that your enemy can be your friend on every point you agree is a way to turn that army of bogeymen turn back into ordinary people. Turning on the “proverbial light” to banish the monsters requires us not to act as if everyone is a trick or a treat, but an opportunity to find common ground to solve common problems. A version of insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Fear, loathing and demonizing the “other side” does not work. The choice is yours, keep your boogeyman or consider the possibility of working with 10% friends. Maybe this new trick will give ordinary people a treat.
¹ Jones, Van Beyond the Messy Truth, Ballantine Books, 2017, p128
² Forum Radio Interview: https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2017/10/20/van-jones-goes-beyond-the-messy-truth/