observations and opinion
In the months leading to April 14th Liberal Party of Canada leadership choice, there has been debate – sometimes heated, sometimes temperate – about the leadership candidates’ suitability. Some have been extremely critical of candidates; some have equated disagreement with disloyalty.
The impulse to suppress opposing ideas and opinions is as old as time, and it is always born of fear. That is understandable in a party torn by fractiousness in the past.On April 14th and the days that follow, there will be a call for unity. And rightly so. So it is important to know what unity is, and how to reach it.
Unity is a merger of distinct parts and purposes. Unity is mutual respect. Unity is not a monoculture; it is diversity, organized towards common and sometimes contradictory goals.Unity is not agreement on all things, but agreement on the important things. And sometimes it is disagreement (ask your spouse, or friends, or colleagues if “unity” in your lives means complete agreement or sameness. It would be surprising if anyone said yes.)
Unity, in fact, is the acceptance of difference among ourselves, because we respect the right of others to have their own minds, and because diversity actually strengthens the whole. Some imagine unity as “falling in line.” That is not unity, it is conquest. Loyalty is not surrender – it is earned confidence and support. It is up to the winners (candidate and supporters) to reach out and embrace those who have lost the contest. And if that warm embrace is offered, it will fall to the disappointed to respond to it.
The work of the winner is to earn the confidence of the defeated. It may not be easy to be gracious in victory, but it is no more difficult than being gracious in defeat. And this approach – magnanimity – is the only road to true unity: “With malice toward none…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves.”