November 24, 2004 United Press International
Outside View: We are all Americans (as published in The Washington Times)
by John Renesch
Outside View Commentator
San Francisco, CA, Nov. 23 (UPI) — Before you start making plans to move to another country or resume the pre-election pattern of furthering the divide between red and blue, left and right, conservative and liberal, let’s take a deep breath and reflect a moment. Let us reflect on this great country we live in, these United States of America, a nation founded on dissent with a track record of weathering many ideological battles in our history.
I cannot recall when the United States has been this sharply divided. I wasn’t around in the Civil War days, so that might have been somewhat comparable. Vietnam certainly caused many wounds, some of which evidently have not yet healed — witness the debate during the just-concluded presidential election. But I also know we can seek out what divides us and come to some common reconciliation. After all, if the South Africans could do it after several generations of apartheid, Americans can certainly do it after one political campaign.
I am now refusing to look at e-mails — even from friends — that contain material that furthers the divide between us. I’m sick and tired of one side or the other insisting on being right and making the other side wrong. I got caught up in it several times myself. It is alluring and seductive to be sure.
Obviously, people have strong opinions concerning certain issues, and it looks unlikely that there’s going to be any effective convincing through righteousness and sheer repetition. So we can either remain almost equally divided or seek a balance and come together.
What has proven to bring about reconciliation is talking to one another, seeking out the people with opposite views and engaging in dialogue with them. Clearly, we are all afraid. We may be afraid of different things, but we are nonetheless acting out of fear.
If nothing else, we were all afraid of what would happen if the other side won the election. We may have been afraid of terrorists, radical ideologies, losing our morality, war, long-term implications of our foreign policy or the economy, but we are all afraid of something.
By talking to one another we could discover what the other side is afraid of. We could share with them what we are afraid of. This requires vulnerability, not righteousness, on both sides of the conversation. We all love our country. Neither side is any less patriotic than the other, despite all the barbs that were exchanged during the campaign.
I had an insight while talking with some friends and colleagues on this subject and decided that when I am engaged with someone with another point of view, I will remain aware of whether what I am saying and how I am saying it furthers relationship and connection with the person or group or whether it serves to make me right. Does it bring us closer, or is my righteousness attempting to dominate? True dialogue bridges divides and allows for reconciliation, like the South Africans did in 1994 with their Truth and Reconciliation Project.
So I’m betting the commonality of all Americans can rise above individual personalities, loyalties and egos and stand tall for America to transcend this contemporary divide. My money is on our united-ness prevailing as our still young nation matures.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., once wrote, “We are an unfinished nation.” We certainly are not finished, so there’s more work to be done if we are to fully realize the great vision our founders articulated.
The United States is certainly still in its adolescence, showing all the traits of a pesky but accomplished teenager, a teenager with more stuff than any of the other teenagers, but still a teenager. All of this is part of our growing up and, as we know from our own experiences, growing up is hard to do.
(John Renesch is a futurist, social commentator and international keynote speaker.)
Copyright 2004 United Press International