Divided America – The Importance of National Unity
The glue binding America is coming undone. Every aspect of life is becoming strained by growing divisiveness. Which media do we trust? Who is worthy of federal aid? How can we ever put this country back together as “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”?
Trust in our political leadership has crumbled. Leaders at all levels are held up for ridicule – the president, Congress, governors, urban mayors, corporate CEOs, union bosses, and even police chiefs – all have approval ratings that have reached all-time lows.
During his lifetime, painter Norman Rockwell turned out 323 covers for the Saturday Evening Post depicting the most decent qualities in our national character through the eyes of the ordinary working stiff. In defense of civic virtue and American exceptionalism, none stood greater than his depiction of the Four Freedoms. He focused first on freedom of speech, characterized as a plain man in workmen’s clothes, hands hard and calloused, calmly having his say at a New England town meeting, while his neighbors, each of whose expressions Rockwell captures with marvelous exquisite detail, listen to him respectfully.
Similar covers depicted his version of freedom of worship; freedom from fear; and freedom from want, as seen through the eyes of the common man. Today, Norman Rockwell’s portrayals would be derided as corny and trite, and perhaps even racist.
Are we losing the America that once earned our praise? Are we permanently divided between “red” and “blue”; rich and poor; Black, White, Brown, Red, or Yellow? How far have we fallen since our 44th president Barack Obama pledged back in 2008 that “America is a place where all things are possible”? Soon, this country will choose either Joe Biden or Donald Trump as our 45th or 46th President of the United States. Whatever the outcome, nearly half the country will feel cheated. The greater risk is hatred and rage. As President Abraham Lincoln warned us, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
A Frightening Trend
Has America become too racist, too smug, and both too poor and too rich? Are we united in common values, that includes belief in equality under the law, basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest? Do we collectively believe in the dignity of every single man, woman and child, and the need for accountability when it comes to our government?
I believe citizens undervalue the unity effort it takes to keep a nation glued together. E. Pluribus Unum – from many, one – looks quite different when the emphasis is shifted from Unum (one nation) to Pluribus (many groups) each competing for the power to correct past grievances.
Big corporations and wealthy donors have pumped more than $400 million into lobbying organizations like “Black Lives Matter” to demonstrate their sensitivity and social concern for the less privileged. Some of these dollars have been funneled to agitators, whose goals are to set up cop free zones in major cities, rewrite the history of America and tear down all statues and monuments that they find offensive. Arson, looting of private property, burning of churches, spitting on police, throwing Molotov cocktails, inciting violence – that is anarchy, not peaceful protest.
There has also been a meltdown in free speech allowed on college campuses, in the nation’s newsrooms and in the social marketplace of ideas. Conservative messages are discouraged, if not quite prohibited. Accusations like “racist” and “xenophobic” are purposely used to generate fear, stop discussion, and paralyze debate. That same technique of using the word “heretic” by those in power, paralyzed discourse and debate in the 16th century.
How Do We Start to Rebuild Unity?
We seem to have lost the ability to sit down together, listen, disagree without being disagreeable and fashion solutions built on common themes, not differences. There are a number of issues that are overwhelmingly supported by Americans of different races, colors and creeds. Collectively, they form a good basis to begin:
Nearly 100% of Americans condemn the brutal killing of George Floyd from a knee-in-the-neck on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis.
Nearly 100% of Americans support the 1st Amendment right of all Americans to peacefully protest, but not to rob, loot, assault local storekeepers and burn down their private property without penalty, and without promised police protection. The primary role of government at all levels is to protect and preserve the safety and security of all citizens, regardless of color, race, or creed.
Nearly 100% of Americans favor bi-partisan leadership and cooperation in Congress. What happened to the days when two affable Irishmen – Ronald Reagan and “Tip” O’Neill – could debate by day, then sit down over dinner with a bottle of port and craft legislation that both leaders could live with? Today, red and blue voters may live in the same neighborhoods, but political discourse among friends too often descends into acrimonious and distasteful bitterness.
Nearly 100% of Americans believe that the proper pathway for disadvantaged minorities is a strong educational experience, coupled with teaching traditional American values and principles.
Nearly 100% of Americans support legal immigration but disagree as to how many slots should be based on merit vs. family relationships. Nearly all oppose open borders for drug dealers, terrorists, sex slaves, and criminals.
Nearly 100% of Americans support robust job growth, which allows minority workers to escape the binding chains of welfare and lifetime imprisonment in urban ghettos.
Rodney King got it right back in the 1992 when riots and looting shook Los Angeles. He asked, “Why can’t we all just get along?” It is important to view the world through the windshield rather than through the rear-view mirror. We show weakness when we do not work together, or function as a team, or adhere to the principles of individual freedom and personal responsibility as laid down by our forefathers who went to war to create and preserve this less-than-perfect union.
What to Do to End the Rioting and Pull this Nation Together Again
Here is a twofold “Hazard” Plan for President Donald Trump to implement tomorrow:
As president of all 331 million Americans, including 44 million African Americans, Donald Trump needs to arrange a nationally televised meeting at the White House, for a listening conversation with selected Black activist protestors and agitators to find out exactly what it is they specifically want. He also needs to invite and include high-profile successful conservative Black leaders like Dr. Ben Carson and Senator Tim Scott of SC, plus a selection of conservative Black military leaders, Black CEOs, and Black sports heroes and coaches.
With America watching, the president should serve only as moderator and a listener; his panel of conservative Black leaders would offer alternative ideas to protestors to meet their specific demands. The president needs to avoid telling the group how great he is, or what he has done for Black America. Let other Black conservatives carry that message.
Secondly, as a follow-up, I would encourage the president to invite former President Barack Obama to the White House for a televised friendly “fireside chat” with the American people. Barack’s message would focus on promises he made to the American people during his terms in office:
“We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I’ve witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress I think is to deny America’s capacity for change.”
“We should all be thankful for folks who are willing, in a peaceful, disciplined way, to be out there making a difference,” but in addition, “We need to condemn the criminals and thugs who tore up the city of Baltimore on Monday night, after rioting and looting. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting. When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson.”
Inclusion of your foes in delivering unified messaging plays to concepts of inclusion, caring and fairness. For Americans of both political persuasions, and most especially for independent voters, unity of message numbs the differences between red and blue and encourages all voters to think more of the greater good of the nation over party loyalty. Unified messaging also provides a more hopeful platform for meaningful economic and social change.
That same message of inclusion and unity has been reiterated by presidents throughout our history. Theodore Roosevelt said the one sure way to bring down America would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, each insisting on their own identity.” George Washington said that “the bosom of America was open to all, but only if they were willing to be assimilated to our customs, measures, and laws; in a word, soon become our people.”
Woodrow Wilson said flatly, “You cannot become Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group has not yet become an American.”