I could rightfully be accused of seeing everything through the lens of cultural intelligence. But as I follow the lead stories in the U.S. news this week, my commitment to promoting and advancing the ideals that underlie CQ becomes all the more passionate….Ideals like respect, dialogue, and inclusion…And an underlying resolve to seriously consider the Other’s perspective while remaining authentically true to our own convictions and beliefs.

The arguments, passion, and resolve behind all these “current” issues—same sex unions, how to deal with undocumented immigrants, and an Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero—are appropriate points of tension for us as Americans.

But what if instead of forwarding the latest tirade on how all those “illegals” are trying to take advantage of us, we at least stopped to be grateful that native Americans didn’t send us all back to the mother land for illegally moving in. Or before we’re too quick to suggest that everyone behind the Arizona legislation is a bigot and racist, what if we stopped to seriously hear their viewpoint.

I’m not suggesting it’s enough to sit in dialogue together while endlessly flashing peace signs at each other. We have to move toward some solution-oriented decisions as a nation. But the name-calling rants on Facebook, around the water cooler and at family reunions do little to help anyone.

Does a mosque at Ground Zero disregard the lives lost on 9/11? Or does it honor the deceased by saying to jihadists: You can’t divide us that easily! And you don’t speak for all Muslims or all people of faith.

Will same-sex unions annihilate us as a civilization or promote equal rights for all, regardless of our moral viewpoints?

I’m not interested in some vanilla tolerance that just nods in agreement with everything we hear. Instead, let’s have some rigorous debate with a true openness to hearing one another’s ideas and perspectives. Cultural intelligence can help us replace divisive rancor with recognition, respect and mutual understanding.

I confess. I’m an optimist to the core. I’m driven by the crazy idea that the world can truly become a better place. This isn’t blind idealism. I’ve seen it happen again and again—one interaction at a time—as people discover that “different” doesn’t have to equal threatening or bad.

*Imagine a liberal politician and a tea party activist engaging in respectful dialogue.

*Imagine a Jewish family sharing a holiday get-away with a Palestinian family.

*Imagine a CEO working with a hip-hop artist to reduce world hunger.

*Imagine an ACLU advocate joining an evangelical pastor to promote justice.

Tolerance isn’t enough. We have to move toward each other. We have to transcend and include our differences to collaboratively make the world a better place.

When you move toward people of difference while still remaining true to yourself, something powerful happens. Suddenly you can’t go along with the conversations at your family reunion about all “those Muslims”, the problem with “all the Chinese” or those “idiotic liberals” or “greedy conservatives”. The simplistic categories of “us” versus “them” won’t work any more and that’s good for all of us!


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