In his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln made an appeal for unity on the eve of the Civil War.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
The American people are becoming ever more divided by national politics and cultural disputes. Recent polls conducted by the Pew Research Center show the partisan differences.
The politics of the past 20 years have become increasingly divisive, intolerant and personal.
Where did it all begin? Was it the election in 2020 of Joe Biden and the specious allegations of fraud, or was it the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the equally specious allegations of Russian collusion? Does it go back to Bush v. Gore, circa 2000?
Over the last 18 months we’ve seen a host of incidents that have fueled the divide — a summer of nightly riots in major cities accentuated by vandalism, looting and attempts to burn public buildings and immolate police officers; a divisive electoral campaign; and an angry mob of our fellow citizens busting into the U.S. Capitol.
And, of course, there’s the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it by state and federal officials. What could be more divisive than government by diktat?
There is no shortage of provocateurs, left and right, using these incidents to whip us into a frenzy. But the real fault lies with us. We’ve taken the bait.
We have become all too occupied with the divisions, arranging ourselves neatly in one camp or another. We have listened only to those things that bolstered our worldview. We allowed agitators and activists to use our fear and anger as a means to their own ends.
We stopped talking with and listening to each other. We have slapped vile labels on our neighbors and turned them into irredeemable enemies. And, when times are desperate, instinct dictates we deal harshly with an enemy.
We can disagree, but we must respect each other’s point of view. We should live our lives, not our politics. Rather than our differences, we must focus on our common values and ideals.
Our friendships are strained, but we must not be enemies.