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Why We See Things So Differently – An Excerpt from Magenta Nation

Ever wonder why Americans can think so differently about life, politics and behavior? Maybe these differences are “wired” in our brains. Read this excerpt from the book, “Magenta Nation: A Path to Healing Ourselves and Our Nation” by Joy Scott…

Why We See Things So Differently

To understand how to build bridges instead of division, we need to take a close look at how we form beliefs and how we communicate. We might describe our differences as analogous to two types of parenting described by George Lakoff’s book, “Don’t Think of An Elephant!”.

The Patriarchs

First, there is the family led by the patriarch: The strong father, the strict disciplinarian, enforcing absolute rules that guide life and decisions, and providing moral and material security. Everyone who represents “Dad” must be obeyed. Religious leaders can be Dad, government leaders can be Dad, teachers, those in authority, police, the military.

When people follow Dad’s rules, law and order reigns, and God’s will is done. When Dad’s will is not followed, punishment must be meted out – whether it’s a spanking, excommunication from church, consignment to a life of poverty, or even imprisonment.

The patriarchs’ interpretation of the American values of liberty and justice is liberty to make your own way, and justice by getting your just rewards depending on how obedient and hard-working you are.

This group is more susceptible to fear – fear of loss, fear of chaos, fear of losing control over their lives. They are believers in law and order, structure, and self-sufficiency as a moral imperative. They believe:

“It’s up to me to take care of myself and my family. If I can do it, everyone else ought to be able to. Why should I work hard for someone else to enjoy the fruits of my labor? If someone isn’t successful, they are not working hard enough. What’s good for business is good for the country and for me. After all, I’m a businessperson/working person. Economic success is essential to keep my security, the security of our country.”

The Communitarians

Then, there is the family dynamic fostered by the empathetic father or mother who sees children as individuals, provides a moral framework as guidance but allows for individual differences in life choices. Children are encouraged to find their own path, with the acknowledgement that wrong choices will be made, and life will go on. There is no one way to live your life.

Their view extends beyond the family and into the community. Others outside the family should be treated with respect for their differences, and support in finding their own way in life. Life’s about collaboration and compassion.

The second group has a belief system that goes something like this:

We will never be truly happy or truly good unless we help those who are less fortunate than we are. It’s not enough to be successful on my own – lots of people helped me to succeed. Everyone deserves the same chances, even people different from me. We’re all alike and want the same things. While some people may be doing well financially, the rest are falling behind. Protecting the wealth of the few at the detriment of the many – and of the environment – is a recipe for disaster.

Their interpretation of American values of liberty and justice is that we are entitled to the liberty to express ourselves, as long as we aren’t hurting others, and to justice for everybody – including the obligation to work for that universal justice.

How We View Each Other

Each group feels the other does not understand them or respect them. Patriarchs see communitarians as looking down on them, persecuting them, wanting to destroy the institutions they believe in, arrogant, dismissive and out of touch with reality. They see them as irresponsible and stupid, unwilling to deal with reality.

Communitarians see patriarchs as unreasonable, narrow-minded, trying to subvert democracy to establish a plutocracy of the rich and to enforce their religious values on the rest of the world. They see them as the dinosaurs in the brave new world that is upon us – irresponsible and stupid, unwilling to deal with reality. 

What We Unfortunately Have in Common

Lest, in reading this, you identify with one of these groups and are smugly congratulating yourself on your “rightness,” think about what each group has in common. Ready for it?


Whether it’s categorizing people as residents of flyover states and arrogantly dismissing them as uneducated and bigoted, or deciding that half the country is egotistical, immoral and damned, we are sitting in judgment of each other. And what are we really? We are PEOPLE. We are AMERICANS. We have much more in common than we have in separation.

So just stop with the judgment. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. Put it all in an imaginary balloon and let it float out into space. It doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve us.

Buy Magenta Nation here.

Interested in healing America? Order "Magenta Nation" today and get started.

Think people can’t change their beliefs? Read “Love or Loyalty” to see the power of forgiveness in healing relationships and our nation.

Wondering about how families can heal, even after death? Read “Love Eternal... One More Time” to be amused and enlightened.