This week Americans of all stripes once again will be gathering for traditional celebrations of the anniversary of our nation’s independence.
It’s no secret that unity is hard to come by these days. Many have embraced the idea that there’s a red America and a blue America, with common ground between the two hard if not impossible to come by. There are those who suggest the situation is so untenable that a breakup is in order.
But this ignores some important realities. For starters, each and every state is really some shade of purple. The states where Democrats dominate politically have plenty of territory with large numbers of conservative residents. Places like New York and California aren’t nearly as monolithic politically as many assume. The same goes for red states. There are plenty of people who identify as liberal in Midwestern and Southern states where the GOP has its greatest strengths. And that’s not to mention the many people in the middle whose views don’t conform completely with one faction or the other.
We have to find a way to keep living together in relative tranquility. That means having spirited debate during campaigns but not allowing politics to dominate our lives far beyond election season.
Many seem to believe that they can argue or insult their ideological rivals into submission. It’s not going to happen. People just retreat that much deeper into their own camps.
Our system at its best involves people of good will trying to persuade one another to adopt or change a point of view. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.
As we celebrate America’s founding, we can look back on the nation’s history and get some valuable perspective.
Yes, there’s a troubling political divide in our country today, but that’s hardly anything new in the United States. Our nation has endured and thrived through internal friction from its inception.
The idea of declaring independence from Britain was not approved by acclamation. There was bitter debate in the weeks leading up to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Such a move was practically unheard of, and there were many who still hoped for a reconciliation with Britain even as war raged.
The early years of our republic were filled with vicious arguments. The election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was among the nastiest in our country’s history. Though it’s important to note that those two men, allies during the debate over independence, rekindled their friendship later in life. Perhaps there’s a lesson there that we could learn today.
Americans somehow managed to reunite in the wake of the Civil War, however difficult it was.
You don’t have to look back that far to find examples of the country living with and surviving internal divisions. Many of our readers undoubtedly remember the tensions caused by the Cold War and the tumult of the 1960s, to name just two of many examples.
In three short years we will be marking America’s 250th anniversary. Contemplating that brings back memories of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. It offers us more lessons for today.
Bicentennial commemorations led to an outpouring of pride that lasted the entire year. All this took place in the wake of the political upheaval caused by the Watergate scandal, America’s defeat in Vietnam and some extraordinarily difficult economic conditions. If we could unite then, surely we can do so now.
Each of us faces a choice: Do we try to find common ground with our political opponents or continue to drift apart? The most fervent among us are not likely to be swayed, but we believe there are many in the middle who yearn for a change in tone.
This week and beyond, we urge readers to treat their political rivals as fellow Americans, not enemies. Express your beliefs with passion and vigor, but with respect for the other side.
The people of our nation have accomplished so much together. We must not stop now.
Source: Berkshire mont