Kenneth Cole: Finding Hope in Our Divided State of America
A new decade begins and America finds itself more divided than ever. Stepping back from the brink of war with Iran, and a president impeached due to extortion and failing to honor his oath of office. A divide marked by a growing acceptance of white supremacy, misogyny, lies, and corruption in the Oval Office.
One side of the divide appalled and concerned by such developments. The other seemingly comfortable in their dalliance with racism, silent, and tacitly endorsing these actions. Millions of Americans increasingly entrenched in their beliefs, honing their respective narratives and fortifying themselves as the divide deepens.
Left or Right. Democrat or Republican. Liberal or Conservative. The complexities of our nation, its people and political system parsed down the middle and distilled to a concrete “either-or” dilemma.
The result? Two factions under one flag with starkly different perspectives and objectives. The divide marketed as a wound that must be treated for the country to survive. Compelling a yet unrealized goal of the ever elusive compromise. The belief that there can be a more united state in America.
Such a noble aspiration is in keeping with the ideals of a fully functioning democracy. One where both sides are considered, compromise is reached, and harmony prevails. However, naively compromising without first examining where each side stands may prove destructive to democracy.
The divide in this country is real and will only grow wider in the months leading up to the 2020 election. But rather than each side going to their neutral corners, and engaging with their algorithmically determined cohorts, it should prompt unflinching and passionate discussion. Dialogue that focuses on the moral, religious, and philosophical underpinnings of their respective views. Dialogue that moves away from red herring pontification about tax cuts, unemployment rates, and the stock market, and instead compels candor and honesty about what each side has come to represent.
When confronted in such a direct fashion, the chaos and disruption of the past several years can serve as a moral clarion for every American to determine if now is the time to stand firm for what they believe or to consider change. It can compel individuals to look at what their side has come to represent, and who they are now aligned with.
Americans can do this by asking themselves if compromise is to be achieved should they find ways to keep immigrant families together, or come to an agreement on the acceptable number of children allowed to die in cages due to a lack of flu vaccine. As Americans settle into a compromise, they can consider if they should move toward more inclusivity and acceptance in policy, or decide upon which of the president’s future policies and speeches will be written by white supremacists.
Those who profess to be people of faith can play a role in bridging the divide as well. They can consider how best to live a life that is consistent with their God’s teachings, or they can elect to loosen their grip and question the value of God’s word on Proverbs 12:22 “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,” and Proverbs 19:9 “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.”
Many across America abhor the divide that has torn apart families, reduced the exchange of pleasantries, and instilled a silence marked by untrusting glances and swipes and shares of hate and disregard. As painful as this is, maybe it is time to embrace the divide and trust that historically such polarization has revealed the moral conscience that ideally resides within everyone.
Such divides have served as the precursor for some of this country’s finest accomplishments. There was a stark divide that preceded the writing of the constitution. The divide was painful and devastating during the Civil War, and divides have paved the way for women’s rights, civil rights, desegregation, and policies that continue to hold the potential to make America truly great.
Divided there remains an opportunity for two viewpoints to be shared and challenged, but united in hate, corruption, and white supremacy America ends up standing on the same timeline of every failed autocracy and dictatorship. A timeline that is short lived, but filled with pain, suffering, and the eventual silence of millions who dare not speak of the atrocities they witnessed and that their silence emboldened.
The intensity of this moment highlights that now may be the time, perhaps like none other in America’s history, to celebrate and embrace the divide. Lean into the divide and recognize that there are certain beliefs that have taken root, and standards eroded that are antithetical to the survival of a functioning and moral democracy. As toxic and painful as it is to witness the trauma that now cuts across the American landscape, the resulting debate and protest reveals that the soul and spirit of America is alive and well.
Now is not the time for blind unity, or uninformed compromise. The divide can be bridged when truth matters more than lies. Compromise can be achieved once America’s policies and the president’s speeches are written by those with an open and inclusive mind, and not one steeped in white supremacy. Both sides can meet in the middle when children stay with their families, and are not left to die in American cages. And this country can once again be united when those who assault and murder peaceful protesters are not viewed as “good people,” our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are not deprived disaster relief, and when friendships with pedophiles, convicts, and adversaries are no longer dismissed or denied.
Ultimately to honor this country’s legacy and for the betterment of democracy, this divide must be mended. It is clear that the only way America can come together and survive is when doing so is based on the very principles that it was built on, but has yet to realize.
Those who love America and believe in a truly representative democracy long for the day when the two sides can come together as one. A day that begins once tens of millions of Americans take stock of what vitriol, lies, and hate have manifested. A day when they recognize that feeling “great again” is not worth sacrificing the democratic experiment for an autocratic one that is doomed to fail.
When those Americans have given up their endorsement of this, then the rest of America, those who have retained some degree of compassion, dignity, and regard for the truth, they will be ready to meet in the middle. With open arms and an open mind to take the steps forward to celebrate and embrace a unity across America that far exceeds all that came before it.