One nation, indivisible?
In the 236 years since the United States declared independence from the British Crown, we have, as a nation, confronted numerous issues and conflicts that could have – and at least one logically should have – torn us apart.
The Civil War is the most obvious example, but the legal segregation between races that followed is another, as is the upheaval of the Great Depression.
We have been divided over the years between black and white, rich and poor, drinkers and teetotalers, gay and straight, pro-life and pro-choice and women’s rights in general. Somehow we have remained a union, a mystery of social alchemy many great minds have tried to fathom.
We’re not always clear what unites us but it isn’t hard to find things that divide us, especially in an election year marked by some of the angriest rhetoric since the days of the Vietnam War.
There are two very clear and contrasting visions for America’s future playing out in the language flooding the political airways. One is of an America in which government plays a modest role, the free market drives most social decisions and individual rights not only trump collective values but represent the best path for achieving the greater good. In this world taxes are, if not anathema, a necessary evil to be avoided or eliminated whenever possible, and government, which feeds on taxes, needs to be reduced in size so that its reach and involvement in individual lives is minimized.
The other vision is of an America in which government is a partner if not a provider, in which an implicit social contract holds us – to some degree – collectively responsible for each other and for each other’s welfare. In that world, we provide a cushion for those least able to provide for themselves, and we agree that government offers the best tools to protect both the natural and social environment from the excesses of the marketplace.
Both are rational positions, until taken to extremes and both sides have their extreme proponents. But one side, flying the Tea Party banner, has taken political opinion off a rhetorical cliff.
Among the dozens of emails we receive each day from TeaParty.org are these messages:
“The socialist machine is preparing to dictate terms of surrender to the American people, and they believe there is no one and nothing to stop them.”
“Help us stop Obama’s communist agenda.”
“The global communists have systematically turned the already tainted media into a brain washing, anti-constitution trashing machine, shoving their greater good malarkey down our throats.”
“Obama Fraud ‘Biggest Potential Crime’ in U.S. History.”
“The hideous abomination from hell must be eradicated. Obama Socialism is a political cancer which is terminal to our beloved nation.”
We know there are thousands of sincere Tea Party followers who disagree with the direction our government is taking us but who don’t subscribe to this kind of hateful language. We’d like to humbly suggest that as we celebrate our nation’s birth tomorrow we make an effort to look for a little common ground rather than sow more division.
The Pledge of Allegiance says we’re “indivisible.” Let’s prove it.