In the new year, the presidential torch will pass from Donald Trump and Mike Pence to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Yet our government and our people remain divided. American diversity, including diversity of opinion, is one of our greatest strengths. But in recent years, the stress of deepening divisions between left and right have ripped apart the fabric of our nation, leaving us weakened. To regain America’s strength and its ability to protect us all, we must reunite.
Our nation’s leaders are daunted by the task of reunifying America. They cannot do it alone. Each and every one of us must do our part. How, you ask? Let me suggest three ways.
The first is borrowed from my June post, United We Stand, which appealed to readers to help heal America’s racial wounds by extending more empathy and trust toward those who are different from ourselves. That suggestion is equally relevant to today’s post: we cannot bridge the chasm between left and right without first seeing those on the other side as ordinary people with their own troubles, fears, and hopes–most of whom, with the best of intentions, simply want to see an America that provides the safety and opportunity needed for their families to thrive.
A second way we can each do our part to help reunify our nation is to intentionally disengage from divisive media, including social media and opinion/news media. Information sources like Facebook, Twitter, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and Google News earn more money from ads seen by more viewers, leading these companies to “feed” viewers whatever will grab and hold viewer attention. This often skews content toward the most emotionally charged, inflammatory content that reinforces viewers’ existing opinions and political leanings, since viewers tend to disengage from content that questions their beliefs. The result is that we see our own politics put in the best light, others’ politics in the worst light, and we never hear the other side of the story, further deepening the rift of misunderstanding between us. To stop dynamiting our political divide and begin bridging it, we must spend less time letting such media ignite and fuel our fear and anger, and more time seeing the humanity on the other side.
A third way we can answer the call to reunite America is by focusing on our common goals. Research shows that simply separating people into two groups can lead to rivalry and animosity, but also shows that giving those groups a common goal can reunify them. At this time in our history, Americans need not look far to find common purpose. To bring COVID-19 under control, we must tackle the pandemic together. To rescue our struggling economy, we must rely on one another and roll up our sleeves together. To rebuild America’s strength in the world, our most important allies must be each other.
These challenges call us together. We will overcome them if we view one another not as partisans, but as fellow humans, as fellow Americans, as neighbors in the small world we share.