Think back several years. A wall between Mexico and the US wasn’t even on our radar. 90% of our students went to public schools, mixtures of races and religions. We could put political yard signs in front of our homes and for the most part, nobody got shot for it. (A friend from India was visiting in 2008 and was amazed that next-door neighbors could support opposing candidates and still speak to each other.) We shopped at the same grocery stores and went to the same churches and generally GOT ALONG.
We even liked each other.
I don’t want to lose that. We were united, even when we disagreed with each other. There was room for working things out. Being united was a USA value. It’s part of our name.
I recently heard a journalist say, “If Trump wins, America will burn. If Biden wins, America will burn.” Where’s the unity? Is it still a value…or have fear, hate, and lies displaced it? How did we re-unite after other crises, like the Civil War? Can we do it again?
Three things come to mind.
First, after the Civil War, there was a call for unity from the president. “We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” (Lincoln)
Today, there’s no call for unity from this administration.
Second, both black and white citizens valued a free country, so they put in the work to fulfill the dream.
Today, white citizens are so many generations away from being un-free, maybe we take freedom for granted. Have we forgotten to value that too?
And third, the ideologically-different North and South used enough compromise and coalition-building to pull it off.
Today, words like “compromise” and “coalition-building” are practically obsolete.
So back to the question. Can we re-unite?
I don’t know. Maybe we can’t survive THIS civil war. But we’ve got to try, no matter how hard it is.
Years ago, I helped start a church with this denominational motto. “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, diversity. In all things, charity.” Maybe it can be applied to our country as well.
We all have our essential issues. Nobody will take those away after the election. They will still be our essentials. We can unite with others and continue to fight for them. And maybe it’s possible to work with those on the other side. My pro-fracking friends aren’t against greenness in any form. My pro-choice friends don’t even like abortion. (Nobody LIKES abortion.) What happened to our ability to make progress WITHIN our pluralism?
Are we going to just sit here and be robbed by the voices that tell us to fear and hate each other? I blame the voices. United we stand. Divided we fall.
So back to the motto. We all have our non-essentials too. We can name them and move on. Some things aren’t worth losing our country over.
And about that charity thing, we’ve gotta rediscover it before it’s too far gone.
A lot of Americans will lose their hope for America on November 3 (or sometime afterwards). I’m well aware that I might. I won’t merely be disappointed, I’ll be terrified that our united states will come apart. But until that happens, my plan is to double down in the battle for justice, restoration, and a lot of other healing things, fully aware it won’t come easy.
If unity is possible, I want it. I really do believe that in the end, love wins. That seems impossible today, but the voices telling us to fear and hate each other are lying. We’re being played. We can re-find our shared vision. We can fight for what’s important to us without losing our unity.
It’s been done before. And that time, it was after 618,222 people had died, people with polar opposite ideologies.
So here we are over a century-and-a-half later, battered and bruised but still here, remembering.