I read with interest and some sadness the recent New York Times coverage of the political conflict about a mask mandate in Enid.

To the extent that the coverage is accurate, there seemed to be agreement from everyone that the conflict was about “something deeper.” I found myself feeling that there was so much pain in this story, and that the same kind of pain was felt on both sides. As I heard it, the “something deeper” was the profound pain of feeling not recognized as a person — not seen or heard, feeling canceled or shunned, and humiliated in the process. I’m a psychologist who now leads a dialogue organization, and, in my experience, group conflict, like the one you are going through, can lead to new energy and engagement, which is great, and to political victories. What it can’t do is satisfy that deep longing to be recognized, not just by those “on your side,” but by those who, at least on the surface, don’t seem to be.

This is my wish for Enid: That you find a way to come together and speak what matters to you, and why, to each other; that you take the risk of speaking personally to others and of listening to them personally. This is the true path toward feeling recognized. There are organizations that help with this, for example, Braver Angels. If you can do it, you will not only feel a restored sense of community, you will be a model for the country.

Jerry Fromm

Lenox, Mass.

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