During my many decades on the planet, I have never seen such divisiveness across so many sectors of the United States. It seems that almost daily, we are alerted to this growing divide by examples in the newspaper, on television and via tweet. Please note that this column is not about political conservatives or progressives. Rather, it is about those who might have the chance (or even the responsibility) to help others get back on track and move toward a society that looks beyond what makes us different and instead builds off of what we can learn from one another.
It is time to ask professional counselors and counselor educators to take their place in reducing the verbal (and, in some cases, physical) assaults that seem to be occurring on a regular basis. I am all for free speech, but I cannot abide drawing distinctions between groups of people because of the way they look, what religion they practice, where they were born or whom they choose to love.
Our nation can do better than where we currently find ourselves. It is almost as if some blanket permission has been granted that allows people to denigrate others simply to gain the upper hand or to prove who has more power over others. All of these actions can have a deleterious effect on our communities. This has been demonstrated week after week for several months.
We all need to do our part to reach out, bridge the divide, help others and ensure that the voiceless have voice. I can’t think of a profession better suited for this assignment than professional counselors. As advocates, as providers of essential mental health services and as human beings, today’s professional counselors possess the expertise and compassion to help make America inclusive again. Trust me, I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses, but I am hopeful about what human service professionals — and especially professional counselors — can do to help heal our communities.
Now that I have said you are key to the solution, what’s next? Well, that would start with each and every one of you who is reading this. Think about how you, as an individual, can be more tolerant, more accepting and more inclusive. From there, work with your clients, your students and your community to explore issues that can prevent divisiveness from raising its ugly head. Just think about the impact if our nation’s 250,000-plus counselors helped one person apiece in their efforts to be less divisive in their communities. Now add in elected officials and other constituencies to project what we could achieve in lessening the divisive rhetoric that we are constantly processing.
I am asking you to join me in taking the pledge to do your part to make the United States (or, for those of you outside of the U.S., your own communities) do something — anything — that will move us toward what I am calling “intentional inclusiveness.” This doesn’t have to be with a client or a student; it can be with anyone with whom you come into contact. It needs to start somewhere, so why not with each of us? I would love to hear from those of you who “take the pledge,” and I am even more interested in learning what you plan to do.