by Phyllis Stenerson
A worldview embedded within America’s story
Each of us sees the world through a unique worldview developed over time by our life experiences, consciously or subconsciously. How we think and feel about local and world events impacts our individual lives and our interconnected world.
Each of us has a story. In a democracy, the blending of all our stories creates America’s story. Naturally, tensions are inherent and persistent, the loudest voice gets heard, the most emotional motivates and other clever communications tactics.
Democracy is America’s form of government, an essential component of a civilized society. Our representative democracy reflects and impacts our lives. Politics is the process of influencing government. Some people are intensely focused and gain power so that their positions prevail. Some citizens are scarcely aware of the larger world around them and live with outcomes of other people’s involvement. Most of us fall somewhere on the continuum between these extremes.
My life story and worldview
Since what I say and write is sifted through my own worldview, you have a right to know my basic life story and philosophy so you can process and evaluate my work, assuming you’ve chosen to read it.
Briefly, I was born the day World War II started, grew up first in a farming community and then a rapidly growing suburb of Minneapolis. The role for Scandinavian, Lutheran, working-class women was narrowly proscribed. I stayed with the parameters until I became the first in my family to go to college and further explore alternatives.
After a period of dropping out of college and working at resorts jobs in upstate New York and Idaho, I got married, moved to Colorado, then California, and back to Minnesota, had two sons, bought a nice house in a nice part of the city and was a “stay-at-home” mom while my boys were little. I got involved in their school plus community activities and politics, worked part-time, got my college degree, got divorced, worked full time to support myself and so on.
Other major influences on my worldview included becoming a Unitarian-Universalist, and having a mentor who was a pioneer in the studies of creative and higher level thinking, all the while growing older amid unprecedented political and cultural upheaval. I worked for two Members of Congress, one first as a fundraiser and then as a District Office staffer, the other as a big bucks fundraiser. In the first case the year was 1978. We started the fundraising project by sorting through 3 x 5 cards with donor information from other campaigns, then discovered the newly emerging PACs (political action committees). So, I’ve been part of the problem as well as part of the solution.
The best thing in my life now is having two sons grow into successful husbands and fathers, smart daughters-in-law and three perfect grandchildren.
My life and work in these times
When the Bush administration launched a pre-emptive war with Iraq in 2003, I was flabbergasted, angry and needed to find out how this could happen. I’ve dug deeply and persistently into a broad range of media and learned a lot, thereby discovering how little I actually knew about American history, culture and current affairs. Things are not always as they seem.
“Culture wars” became part of the American vernacular. I labeled this as media hype and brushed it aside. However, as I worked through the tangle that is our country’s social fabric, I came to realize that culture wars are real and at the core of the deep divisions quite literally threatening our democracy and the promise of America.
A major insight came in learning how significantly a person’s worldview impacts their attitude toward politics, and how this worldview is influenced by life experiences, especially family, religion, education and community connections. People have lived in tribes or clans since the beginning of civilization. We still do. A major differentiating factor is the extent to which we stay within our clan of origin or branch out to discover, or create, a different reality.
I became fascinated, some might say obsessed, with this endlessly complex phenomena and began collecting information. At the start of this journey in 2005 information relating to the cultural and religious dynamics influencing politics was rare. Over the past nine years knowledge and analysis generated by experts, public intellectuals and ordinary people has expanded exponentially thanks in large part to the internet, independent journalism and dramatically heightened awareness, at least among a subset of the electorate.
Over time as the data base expanded, a framework was developed to make the ever-increasing volume manageable. I want to share this information with the public as a contribution to citizen education, a vastly under appreciated and under-utilized cornerstone of democracy. I believe a broader, deeper understanding among the electorate of the concept of worldview and the “culture wars” is essential to renewing democracy, and quite literally, saving the world for future generations.
Multiple crises are real and must be faced straight on. As citizens of the world’s first and greatest democracy, we have a sacred responsibility to do our best to help create a better future for all.
Multiple opportunities are ready to be seized by an activated citizenry to collaboratively create innovative, intelligent and moral ways to transform America.
Posted Feb 8, 2014 -latest revision – Feb 10, 2014