At Rehoboth Beach, I struck up a conversation with a vacationing stranger; we broached the subject of how masks have become a fashion statement. A big strapping young surfer overheard our conversation, and lo and behold, he chirped in—declaring that he coordinates his red mask with what he wears. He espoused that his red shirt matched his striped red and blue shorts and red tennis shoes, and believe it or not, he then waxed lyrical about wearing red underwear to match! His girlfriend affirmed this by nodding. There was something to this…I said to myself. I decided—right then and there—to interview people on the boardwalk. While interviewing approximately 500 people over four days, I realized that something simmered under the surface. Yes—there was the most obvious aspect of the mask, like wearing them protects you and others. And, yes—how your mask reflects your personality; how bloody hot it is; how it stifles communication, both verbal and nonverbal; how it’s a pain to wear them; and how annoying it is when you forget it. However, most surprising was the concept of individual rights vs group rights and what side of the fence was more important with regards to wearing masks in public or not and keeping people safe. This concept of conflicting opposites regarding individual versus group rights came up over and over again.
Regarding the individual and the group, it is like the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? The group is comprised of individuals; these individuals comprise the group. Do individual rights come first or do group rights come first? Here ignites the struggle and conflict, especially during times of a national adversity. The individual and the group and their respective rights can be compared to a coin. The coin symbolizes, on each side, individual rights and group rights, which are intertwined for they are the opposites of the same thing. The group is the individual and the individual comprises the group. Hence, they are the opposite sides of the same coin.
Interestingly, the currently circulating JFK 50- cent piece has John F. Kennedy on the front and Seal of the President of the United States of America on the back. The central design is based on the Great Seal of the United States, which has the words, “E Pluribus Unum”, translating from Latin: “out of many, one.” It is interesting to note that it also translates “one from many”. We can surmise that the opposite translations refer to the same thing. Our Founding Fathers coined this term and it seems to be no accident that one can translated it by its opposites, yet still defining the same thing. Our Founding Fathers knew that this process of free speech and the bantering of opposite ideas would bring forth greater ideas of the same thing for the good for the nation. If there were no opposites, there would be only be one mindset; everything would be the same. The world would be BORING with no diversity or inclusion. It is through the examination of these differences that growth of the individual, the group, and eventually—the nation takes place. This interaction between the two opposites of the same thing, as difficult as this is at times, is where the magic occurs and what makes our country unique. This fundamental interaction of opposites should be celebrated.
As a nation, we have dealt with many adversities. As a people, we are dealing with the opposite stances of how to protect ourselves and others with or without wearing the mask. We need to show compassion, consideration, and tolerance no matter how much it may provoke us. Exercise tolerance regarding other people’s ideas, yet be rigorous with critical thinking. We must as a collective whole have faith that in the end we, as a nation, will bring forth superior ideas from the discussion of opposing ideas. And, those ideas will prevail for the good for the individual as well as the group.
The spirit of America is the spirit of bantering of opposites, giving birth to a special phenomenon of diversity leading to inclusion—inclusion coming from diversity to enhance the greater good. If the idea of opposites is not filling the needs of the people, the process ignites again with people rising up with free speech where diversity and inclusion come together, resulting in implementation of another idea to fulfill the needs of the people. The ongoing dance of opposites and wholeness twinkles on and on….
Furthermore, our Founding Fathers set up our nation to always possess this ebb and flow of opposite ideas in a never-ending fluid process. We the people possess the power. Life is comprised of opposites and we have the freedom to decide if one opposite side is correct for the individual and the group or if the other opposite side might be correct, or even, if a blending of opposing ideas might do the trick to best meet the needs of our nation. It is through the interchange of opposing ideas—this right, this liberty—that makes our country great. In the end, the reconciliation of opposites through the verbal shake down of opposites brings about a teaching moment: coming to a collective idea in terms of opposites by showing tolerance and critical thinking to be inclusive and diverse with regard to different thoughts. Opposites make up life and opposites make life spicy and good. It is the strategy and tactic of implementation that are crucial. In the end, whether it is masks or another issue, we debate the concept of opposite ideas. For doing so, we are good citizens of the nation, and ultimately— we transcend to being good citizens of the world.
Pichi Bellingrath McClure is a resilience expert. She helps people strengthen their personal leadership and overcome the impossible through her content, tools, and strategies. Subscribe to her biweekly Resilience Tips and follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.