Let’s face it, there is nowhere to hide from that fact that our country is in a deep state of division. You will find it if you turn on a news channel, pick up a newspaper, or sit and listen to people talk in a local coffee shop. It is no longer important who you are, but what you are. People are labeled Republican or Democrat, extreme left or far right, snowflakes or deplorables. The media is in an all-out war with the new presidential administration, both houses of Congress only vote party line, and families are breaking up because they cannot agree to disagree, or accept the results of an election where Donald J. Trump became President of the United States.
This past Sunday, we hosted friends on a highly-recommended Night Tour of Washington D.C. Monuments. It was spectacular. Every monument is a testament to the fact that our current era of division is not the first in American history, nor will it likely be the last. These magnificent concrete memorials also pay tribute to those who fought and gave their lives to preserve our liberty and freedom. But they also tell us that we as a nation united have survived troubled times and still managed to move forward.
As we stood at the foot of that enormous statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Memorial named for him — all heads tilted upward and began reading those few, but powerful words of the Gettysburg Address. It was emotionally overwhelming to harken back to the timeless meaning of those words.
…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Lincoln’s features on his memorial are sculpted in such a manner that you can sense the personal pain and tragedy of guiding our young nation through a protracted Civil War. Many people forget that seven states had already seceded from the Union when Lincoln took office. Democrats, especially those from the south vehemently hated him personally and his views in particular. They proclaimed he would ruin the economy and was out of touch with more than half the country. There is also no doubt that President Lincoln inherited a mess left by a man some define as the least effective president of all time, James Buchanan. Any of this sound familiar?
The point is: I’m not saying Donald Trump is Abraham Lincoln – but at both times in history we were a nation divided. And while I do not believe we are headed for another civil war militarily, we do seem to be in bondage to a political civil war of sorts.
Gazing at these magnificent monuments made me believe that as Americans we can and should find ways to bind up the wounds of our people to become united again. We must not become that generation which allows freedom and liberty to perish.
Is there a way we can find common ground? How do those on the right convince those on the left that not all who voted for Donald Trump are a bunch of white supremacists, homophobic, racist, gun slinging wanna-shoot-everybody- in-sight, uptight neurotics? How do liberals convince conservatives that they are not a bunch of bleeding hearts, let the government pay for everything, lazy, whiny, ignorant, angry ingrates?
Perhaps it would be best to begin with these words from yet another memorial – that of Thomas Jefferson. Etched in stone were these brilliant and unparalleled words from the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
And so, it seems we as a people can begin to narrow this political divide by defining ourselves as Americans first and not by party affiliation. Let’s respect the office of the President no matter who occupies it. Let’s do what is right for the whole, not simply the few. We owe it to those who paid the ultimate price, sucked it up and did as much during prior times of division in our history.
This strange and unique thing called a Republic is not easy to keep but certainly worth preserving. Just take a stroll down along the National Mall through the monuments in Washington, D.C. some evening and you’ll see what I mean.