Enlightened Self-Interest

It was Saturday morning in the fall of 1952. I was jolted out of my sleep by the sound of my father’s voice booming through my open window.  Dazed and rubbing my eyes, I tried to make sense of this strange awakening.  My father was dignified and soft-spoken; booming was not his style, and why was he yelling from outside?  As I ran to the window, I caught a glimpse of a sound truck passing the house, with the words, Eisenhower for President. My father was on the campaign trail. In those days, in the eyes of Black people, Democrats were Dixicrats, which was equated with segregation and racism.  So quite naturally, my father was a Republican: an Abraham Lincoln Republican to be exact, honoring the man who freed the slaves.

Enlightened self-interest on my father’s part.

Had my father been alive in 2008, he would most likely have voted Democratic, filled with pride that the American dream was within the grasp of a Black man.

Enlightened self-interest once again.

Sadly, we are living in an era of political polarization both national and personal. Clashes of self-interest have reached a new level. Often when we discover that a close friend has chosen a political stand different from our own, hostile thoughts come to mind.

“I’ve known him all these years and never suspected he was a racist.”

“Who would have though she was homophobic?”

“He criticizes me for carrying a gun.  Has he forgotten that we have a      Constitution?”

What is the answer?  How can we become sensitive to the self-interest of those with different needs and agendas?  Perhaps you are:

  • a woman seeking equal pay for equal work
  • a black man in fear of the police.
  • an entrepreneur seeking tax breaks as reward for hard work.
  • a lesbian seeking acceptance rather than condemnation.
  • a marksman seeking to preserve the constitutional right to bear arms.

How do we find a way to convert opposition into understanding? How can our diverse self-interests become harmonious?  We need to think beyond ourselves, and consider how other people will be affected by our position.

  • Is the greater good being served?
  • Will some one be harmed by my decision?
  • Will some one’s rights be taken away?

Most importantly, is my self-interest consistent with “One nation under God, indivisible?”


written by Amy Bryant, Safety Harbor resident blogger

Amy Bryant

Author of You CAN Go Home Again


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