Episode 34 – This New Year, Let’s Unite America

Welcome to the Thirty-Fourth episode of my podcast, The Power of Three. I want to help show you how harnessing the Power of Three can lead to a more fulfilling life, a life that celebrates our differences and our similarities, and accepts that we are part of the great web of life.

In this episode, I will discuss whether we can bring Americans back together as a nation. The current climate in America, both political and social seems hopelessly divided. It appears that almost everything divides us as a nation. Even talking about division attracts accusations of a lack of patriotism.

I am currently reading “How to Talk like Obama”, a book on public speaking. Much of the book is devoted to Obama’s speeches. Obama wanted to unite the nation. Every speech I read has sentiments that echo this sentiment. Yet everything he did is still seen by many people as too divisive. One of his first speeches contained the lines, “Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America. There’s the United States of America”. Why did so many see him as divisive?

Merely disagreeing with someone’s opinion does not automatically make you divisive. Just being from another political party does not make you divisive. Just being a different color does not make you divisive. Yet, Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader in the senate, said quite clearly, “Our job is to make sure Obama is a one term president”. Then he did whatever he could to obstruct the president. That kind of political ethic is not conducive to bringing people together.

The current president promised to unify America, and yet much of what he has done is extremely divisive. You cannot unify people by continually attacking and insulting them. People distance themselves from you. The president refused to condemn white supremacy. Supremacist organizations appear daily. Any organization that promotes the supremacy of a single race, or gender, or religion, is divisive. Discrimination or hatred of a different group cannot unite a nation. It may unite your group, but it can split a nation.

I have very strong opinions on a wide range of topics. I find it very difficult not to become angry and frustrated over division and obstruction of what I perceive as rational opinions. I recognize that people may have opinions diametrically opposed to mine. That is not easy to accept. Easy or not, I must acknowledge those opinions and acknowledge that people have a right to voice them.

One article I read claimed that we as a nation still believe in the fundamentals of democracy, including the right to free speech and peaceful protest. I don’t believe that is entirely true. Some people saw peaceful protesters as rioters and some people want to restrict the right to vote. Many people see the opposite party as a threat to free speech and the nation. Yet majorities agree with the right to nonviolent protest. Most people agree that unpopular opinions are protected speech.

How do we create unity in this nation? Is it really hopeless? Do we really want to see others as the enemy? A majority of people agrees with a great deal. Let’s look at a few examples. Does a news organization have the right to criticize the president? Do football players have the right to protest the anthem? Most people say yes. Criticism is part of the cherished notion of free speech.

I believed for much of my life that most people are fundamentally decent. I found that view challenged for a number of years during the last four presidencies. Inside, I still believe that. I am certain that some people just do not like others, for a variety of reasons. Some go so far as to actively hate others. I do think that most of those would not feel so strongly if certain conditions were met.

To me, the answer is to stop seeing others as the enemy. We need to stop using words that create division. Calling people baby killers or fascists because they believe in the right to abortion is not helpful. Calling the troops that go to fight our wars murderers is similarly not helpful. Calling environmentalists tree huggers or bunny huggers or eco-terrorists is not helpful. Emotional insults are not conducive to a civil society, to solving the very real problems that society faces.

Why people hold opinions so alien to our own is our duty to understand. We spend our lives in echo chambers in which we find others like ourselves to reinforce our views. Instead of liberals looking for liberal groups, perhaps we should find conservative groups and talk to them. When we talk to people with radically different views, we can start to appreciate why they feel the way they do. It is only then that we can start to find common ground and solutions to the problems we face.

Let’s say we face the problem of gun violence, which we do. People on the gun control side can attend a gun show, go to a gun range and talk to people. Find out what their concerns are. Then attempt to find ways to address those concerns. We could make certain that gun owners understand that they won’t have their guns confiscated, that the government is not trying to control their lives, and that law enforcement can protect them.

Conversely, gun owners should try to understand the concerns of people who do not own firearms. Gun owners should propose solutions that are satisfactory to people who believe in controlling firearms. Gun owners cannot just glibly dismiss those concerns.

For each problem that we face as a society, the solution is not to insult those who oppose our opinions. There is always a compromise, always a way to resolve those differences without resort to attack. The language that we use can create resentment that lasts for generations. We must meet the people we oppose on equal footing, without preconditions, without demands. Talk about the things that bother us, and concerns we have. When our opponents understand those concerns and we understand themR, perhaps we can work towards compromise.

Compromise is never an easy road to take. We all give up something during compromise, but it leads to more stable societies. Take something as divisive as abortion. On one hand people believe in the unregulated access to abortion. On the other, people believe in no access at all. Is it possible to find a middle way? What if abortions had certain restrictions except in cases of rape, incest and fetal abnormality. Would that satisfy a majority on one side? What do we do for women who cannot afford the child, who do not earn enough to afford medical bills? What about time off to care for the child? Can those women receive subsidies and day care? In this way, we can find alternatives that can satisfy majorities on all sides.

I came to America in no small part because America is able to solve problems. This nation defeated the Nazis. This nation provided livable pensions and medical in old age. This nation landed men on the moon and developed the Internet. Together we can solve the problems that face the world today; climate change, environmental destruction, and poverty. I believe firmly that there are enough good, decent people in this country that we can put aside petty differences and find a middle way. We need to put aside the politics of division and hatred. We can recognize that obstacles that face the poor, we can acknowledge the threats to life on the planet, we can understand people’s fears and work to alleviate them.

The Founding Fathers laid down a set of guidelines for the nation. Those guidelines were not carved in stone. They need adjustments and corrections in the face of the realities of life in a complex society. Yet they were written with foresight and intelligence. Every generation needs to pick up the mantle of their forefathers and forge a better future, a more perfect union. We need to unite as a nation because far more unites us than divides us. I believe that when we talk to one another, we can start to understand each other, and through understanding create a better society.

My hope for this New year is that we can start to see one another not as Liberals or Conservatives, not as Muslim, Christian or Atheist, not as pro-business or anti-trade. I am not a Christian in the traditional sense, but let us all start to act as the Bible says, love thy neighbor as thyself. Let us all acknowledge each other as human first, as sharing this great planet together. Our fate is in each others hands. My hope for this New Year is that we can see one another, as President Obama said as Americans. This is not the Divided States of America; it is the United States of America.

I encourage you to continue to enhance your life with the Power of Three and search for the best possible life to live.

I wish every single person on this beautiful little world happiness and prosperity in the New Year. Until next time, go well my friends.

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