This week, I read a news article with the depressing fact that political affiliation now polarizes people in America far more than does anything else, including race, ethnic background or religion.
It’s gotten so polarized – a situation both stoked and exploited by both Democratic and Republican politicians with an eye firmly placed on their own political survival – that college students even refuse to room with anyone of the opposing political party.
And one of the things that has become a dirty word on both sides of the Atlantic – shorthand for rabble politics or ‘populism’ – is anything remotely resembling patriotism: pride in your country and a yearning for a recovery of some sort of national vision.
However, as Jefferson Crowle, a professor of history at Vanderbilt University cogently observed in a New York Times article this week, Americans of all persuasions are ‘starved for a meaningful politics of what it means to be American.’
This doesn’t negate the American position in the world or its obligations. It’s not a stance firmly against globalization at all costs or in favor of any particular politician, including our current President. It’s certainly not a stand for or against a particular political point of view.
But in order for this type of polarization to end, we need to reignite and reaffirm a national bond, our definition and sense of a common goal – an idea that all Americans could rally around.
Back to basics
That requires going back to basics. What does the American experiment actually stand for?
Cowle quotes Martin Luther King, who once said that we Americans have to be ‘true to what you said on paper.’ What that means is reclaiming the ideals of our lost story, a story of human rights and inclusivity for all, framed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
From the start, we supposedly were all in this together to create a better world for all people. We’d experienced the failings of the then corrupt British monarchy, and we wanted to improve on them.
We announced a few radical ideas in the Declaration of Independence, our ‘inalienable Rights’ to ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’
In our constitution, we proposed that all of us – we the people – were adopting these radical new laws to ‘create a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.’
Of course, the United States didn’t live up to its lofty original blueprint. From its inception, America endorsed slavery, colonialism and prejudice.
However, what’s important to recognize is that the experiment is far from over and that it’s perfectly within our rights to go back to basics and tweak what isn’t working.
Searching for vision
As Crowle puts it, at this present time, all of us, Democrat and Republican alike, are united over one particular idea: ‘Voters are in search of a place of vision for average Americans, a place of idealism, in an age of cynicism, a place of unity in a time of fracture and a place where policy can be embedded in something greater than technocracy.’
And, I would add, greater than the very deep pockets of industry and politics.
I tell you what I’m waiting for. I’m waiting for Americans of both parties to stop listening to politicians and join hands. I’d like to invite everyone in America to take part in a giant Intention Experiment for America, where they experience the transformational power of standing united.
For only by joining hands and recognizing that we’re all essentially in agreement when it comes to that original American blueprint – all that liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness – can we start over.
And any honest politician from either party with the guts to bring Americans together rather than dividing them, and to reaffirm that vision would undoubtedly win by a landslide.
Don’t allow the politicians to divide us. It is only by standing united that we survive.