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Robert De Niro during an appearance where he used an expletive to condemn President Donald Trump on stage at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards in New York, June 10, 2018. Trump blasted De Niro on Twitter while on his way back to the U.S. from Singapore. (Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)
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David Cook

For Tim

Were we to try and build a bridge yet ignore the laws of the physical world — gravity, tension, motion — then our bridge would undoubtedly collapse.

The same is true within politics.

We continue to try and build political bridges, yet our structures continue to collapse.

Why?

Because we ignore spiritual laws of the human heart.

* Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Give me a restaurant, and I will serve White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Mitch McConnell, both of whom I profoundly disagree with. (For the second time in days, the U.S. Senate Majority leader was recently jeered out of a restaurant.)

Give me a TV show, and I would have fired Samantha Bee.

Why?

Because there is no virtue in crudely calling the president's daughter — or anyone's daughter — a "feckless c**t." No lasting gain in ridicule or public shaming or shutting the door on a guest.

Such actions are only cheap, illusionary victories that aren't really victories at all.

Such actions only cement the Left-Right warfare, calcifying already hardened human hearts, which never open or change through domination, shame or ridicule.

Yes, of course, oppose. Stand firm on principle.

But opposition must honor the inherent dignity of our opponent.

Not to be civil for civility's sake.

But to be effective.

What really makes peace?

Shame and ridicule?

Or nonviolent love in action?

"Civility does not here mean the mere outward gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion," Gandhi wrote. "But an inborn gentleness and desire to do the opponent good."

Such gentleness is not cowardly or namby-pamby, but contains a profound strength able to hold firm on principle while holding even firmer on the inherent worth of even the thorniest of opponents.

By ignoring this law, we ensure perpetual political warfare.

And the bridge keeps collapsing.

* Notice the log in our own eye before criticizing the splinter in another's.

At the Tony Awards, the actor Robert DeNiro took the stage and proclaimed, "F**k Trump."

The audience gave him a standing ovation.

And the Left — my membership here is becoming more and more frayed — is supposed to be the party of inclusion and tolerance?

With even more rigor than we use criticizing the Right, we should examine ourselves:

How have I been intolerant or bigoted?

How have I overlooked the vast shortcomings of certain politicians while hyperfocusing on the vast shortcomings of others?

How have I refused to consider the opinions and experiences of conservatives as if somehow less worthy than my own?

(This is my ugly thorn. My weakness.)

Remembering then that the failures we see in others are often amply present in ourselves, we can act with openness and humility, while realizing that, in many ways, our side can be wrong. Or only half-right.

Without this, the bridge will continue to collapse.

* What we think, we become.

Consider U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who appears to be a mostly reasonable moderate.

"If there were a Mount Rushmore of establishment GOP lawyers, his face would be chiseled upon it," writes David French in the National Review.

"The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice is President Trump's finest hour, his classiest move," writes Yale Law School professor Akhil Reed Amar in The New York Times.

To most of the Left, Kavanaugh is apocryphal.

"Kavanaugh will threaten the lives of millions of Americans for decades to come," proclaimed former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Yet the Left was silent during the presidency of Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient who, as Foreign Policy claims, "often treated human rights as a secondary interest."

The repeated cry-wolf hysteria from the Left is tiresome, ineffectual and results in blowback that only deepens the dysfunction.

Our thoughts must emerge not from a place of anxious, scattered, internet-driven rage, but a deep ground of centered humility and loving clarity.

"In each moment we seek to divest ourselves of any notion that our knowledge is sufficient and final," wrote Christian pacifist A.J. Muste. "The moment we find resistance and resentment against an idea stiffening our mental attitude, stridency creeping into our voices, we should examine ourselves."

Bridges do not collapse upon such ground.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook at DavidCookTFP.

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