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Some counterintuitive scientific explanations are easier for me to accept than others. For example, although it certainly looks like the opposite is happening, I "get it" that the Earth is rotating around the sun. Others, such as the wave particle duality principle of quantum physics that states that matter and light exhibit the behavior of both waves and particles, present more of a challenge.

I'll take the word of the physicists on this one. But even if I can't visualize what is going on at a subatomic level, I still sense the truth of this concept because I know that this duality of particle and wave occurs on a much larger scale, since it is the essence of our political lives.

We are all both particle and wave. We are, each of us, individuals with rights and at the same time members of various communities. We have freedoms that must be protected. But we have not only responsibilities but also the obligation to recognize that our actions affect others. We are always, simultaneously ourselves, and part of something bigger.

The polarized political dialogue in this country is an argument between sides that choose to see us as having only one of these characteristics. As a result neither side gets it right. It is an article of faith on the left that we need to strengthen our communities when the path to success in this country is found in communities that build strong individuals. And on the other side of the spectrum, individual success is championed as if it happens independently of a social and public infrastructure.

Devotion to principle may make people feel that they have clarity but it doesn't mean that they are seeing the whole picture. If even the smallest components of everything in the world around us have this dual characteristic, why would our political reality be any different? Viewed from this perspective, the anger in our current political climate is not merely the result of economic hardship or a reaction to ineffective leadership. It also arises from the frustration of living in a world whose inherent reality will never conform to a simplified one-sided view of it.


With a Perspective, this is Paul Staley.