This is part three in a four-part series about our country and its relationship to what I perceive to be some of our greatest challenges. In this installment, we will analyze the divides among our citizens. As we move through the series, I look forward to your insight and thoughts. More than anything though, I look forward to hearing how we can work together to address the toughest issues facing our nation.
In my 32 years of living, my nation has suffered through some unthinkable horrors. I have experienced bombings in the heartland, hurricanes in the gulf, towers falling, quiet and boisterous terror, natural disasters, and wars both cold and burning hot. The list could go on and for many it does. Your community knows pain that has gone unheard by the masses; stories of heartache which only grabbed local headlines, but were no less important. I too have lived through pain that was only known to a small town or a region.
These acts of both man-made and natural disasters could define a person, a generation, and/or a group of people, but they don’t, at least not for me. Each one of these tragedies reveals a powerful action; an action I wish I could bottle, store in reserve, and use to replenish our sense of citizenry when the moment calls for it. I am talking about our ability to pull together. The horrors experienced by everyday Americans reveal that when we rally together, we are a force to be reckoned.
Seriously, when we are called to action, we can move mountains. In the face of tragedy, I have experienced lines to give blood that wrapped around the block, people volunteering to clear away debris after a tornado, people opening up their homes to total strangers after terrorist attacks, countless tons of donated clothes, water, food, and household items shipped across the country and globe to people trying to put their lives together. I have seen my parents’ home filled with more food than we ever could possibly eat after losing my brother. I have felt firsthand the rallying of a community, the wrapping of wings for protection, and complete strangers offering their time and talents to provide for our most basic needs.
It is easy to get lost in the tragedy and rightfully so. We should never forget those moments which bring us close to the edge. We should respect them and memorialize, if appropriate, but let’s never forget how we conducted ourselves in the aftermath. Let’s not forget the donations, volunteers, and countless acts of service which go unnoticed. These moments deserve to be memorialized too. They reveal the “angels of our better nature.” They are a display of what I love most about being an American; our ability to pull together when called.
We need to remember these moments particularly during the modern day grudge match of presidential elections. Over the course of the next nine months, we will be hyper-focused on what divides, separates us from our neighbor, and what makes us different from the people down the block, in rural areas, and the state next door. We will be sliced and diced based on religion, socio-economic standing, gender, orientation, and political affiliation. The media and candidates will use this information to further the narrative that we are a divided nation. Perhaps we are. Our policy disagreements may be real. They deserve deep and intelligent conversations. They deserve more respect than what currently passes for journalism, but I am asking you to take a deep breath. Please, don’t focus on what divides us. Rather, remember those moments when we were our best selves. I realize it is easier said than done, but here we can begin to mend our current path. We can have the tough conversations, bridge partisan divides, and show the world we are still a united nation, despite our rightful disagreements on the direction of the country we cherish.
As I write this, I can’t help, but wonder why it takes tragedy to pull us together. Are we suffering from a national sense of fight or flight? Is it just human nature to run toward those in need? Are we unaware or immune to the constant suffering of those across the street, down the block, or in the city across the state? Do these moments force us to rally? Unfortunately, I don’t have easy answers to these complex questions. Life is tougher than that, but I do know that the opportunity to do something extraordinary on a grand and national scale is within our grasp. Picture the energy we used to safely land a man on the moon and return him from the heavens. Picture the unity our grandparents felt as a nation went and fought a second great war. Relive the pride you felt as you watched a nation rally together on September 12th, 2001. Each of these moments in history share something in common; national energy. What if we could use that energy to cure cancer, eradicate AIDS, end poverty, reverse global warming, bring peace to the Middle East…? The list of what we could accomplish goes on and on, rightfully so. For me, these are not impossible tasks. They require leadership and not necessarily leadership from ivory towers in Washington, D.C. All that is required is national unity and a common purpose.
Unlike a certain presidential candidate, who I absolutely refuse to give an inch of my website to, I have never doubted America’s greatness. In a lot of ways, I believe we are the greatest country in the world. I also believe we have a great deal of work to do. I feel correct when I say ultra-nationalism frightens me, but rediscovering our sense of collective purpose doesn’t require us to beat our chests. It doesn’t require us to divide the world up into camps of friends and foes. It doesn’t need war mongering or a perpetual and a devout belief in war to reshape the world. All that it requires is the best of ourselves. This is where what we love most about our country can be rediscovered. It is also where the soul of our liberty, justice, fairness, and the American way can be found.
Be good to each other,