CIA Officer Offers Message of Hope in a Time of Nasty Division

Recently, a piece written by a former CIA officer went viral and circulated several websites and social media platforms. In this article, the woman made a plea to Americans, asking us to take a deep look inside and come to terms with the most real, existent threat to the democratic dream. Ourselves.

A Story Worth Repeating

When Quartz published this story written by Yael Eisenstat, she communicated that these were the same ideas and notions that she had been expressing for years. Eisenstat served in a variety of national security capacities for over 17 years. She was a CIA officer, White House advisor, diplomat and more. During this time, she not only worked to ensure the security of the nation in a global context, but also witnessed some of the divisions and challenges that run this deep in the United States alone.

Now with the political climate where it is, there was no better time than now to publish a plea to the American people. A plea that asks Americans to take a look in the mirror at the problems plaguing the country, because the most dangerous threat is not external, outside the borders of this nation. She is calling on the citizens of the United States to strive to “love our country more than we hate our neighbor.” And it is not as easy as it sounds.

Diagnosing the Threat to Democracy

There is certainly something to be said about the national security issues that are familiar to a CIA officer. In this piece, Eisenstat does write of her years protecting the country from threats abroad. She was an analyst on the Afghanistan Task Force as the war began, operated counter-terrorism programs overseas, and served in a senior advisor role to the White House on counter-terrorism measures.

But there is an underlying problem emerging that is more dangerous, and that is “our own hatred and lack of empathy for our fellow citizens”. Instead of looking to the systems of government to deal with these deeply rooted issues, Eisenstat believes it is truly the responsibility of citizens to put service and country before political party and before self.

A Solution

Yael Eisenstat did not only allow for her work to inform her diagnosis of some of America’s biggest obstacles, but it has also given her a clear vision for the future moving forward. It involves the power of listening. Working overseas, it was obvious that the only way to be successful in engaging certain groups of people was to “do the difficult work of building relationships and trust with people who had vastly different points of view”. This is not easy to do, but immensely important.

This technique also offers a way to deal with the situation at hand in the United States. Polarization has led to challenges that Eisenstat believes “tear at the very fabric of our society”. In order to really get at the heart of the issue, we have to find some ways to empathize with the neighbor we do not see eye to eye with. This includes engaging in non violent conversation with people who don’t necessarily agree with us, listening to the other side, and burst the echo chamber we belong to. We can only unite the country if we have some understanding of where ‘the other’ is coming from, or find some common ground.

The Future of America

In the Quartz piece, Eisenstat warns of the dangers of laying the blame and responsibility only on the folks in Washington. It is the easier thing to do, but ultimately moves the nation further and further from its best self. Relying on the politicians will ensure that no relationships are mended since they have put party before country time and time again.

The responsibility lies within each citizen. A responsibility to put country first and to do so by engaging neighbors, taking ownership of this country for all of its faults and shortcomings, and to use innovation and creativity to reverse the negative fabrics that brought us this far.

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