Every four-year’s election, our country is stretched thin along the political spectrum. As the left and right poles tug at our beliefs, the social fabric tightens and tensions rise across the country.
But after each November, our political divisions slowly fade and the social fabric waves freely once again. This time, however, I’m worried that we may not get that far, I’m worried that we are watching it rip.
Take a look at the anger foaming over at rallies. The slurs hurled at those whose families come from other countries or speak other languages. The protestors claiming fraud or a rigged system when their candidate doesn’t win. None of this is unique to this year’s election, but it’s taking place publicly on an unprecedented level. We are goading an angry and socially destructive genie out of a bottle, with no clue how to stuff it back in.
Getting to this point wasn’t too hard. Combine fears of rampant immigration, a sense of insecurity after global terrorist attacks, sluggish economic growth, especially for lower skilled workers, and fewer high quality jobs to lift workers into a vibrant middle class, and you have a fertile ground for raw frustration. Now add in leaders that channel this anger toward selected demographics, business sectors, or countries and it flows into the public space at an alarming speed.
To some, this collective anger is an unfolding revolution. For others it is the beginning of a scorched earth, ‘down with the establishment’ policy approach. And for a final group, it is catalyst for catapulting America toward great nation status. For what it’s worth, here’s my humble opinion: they are all wrong.
Let me put it pretty simply. Any idiot with a stick of dynamite can blow something up. But it’s much harder to assemble the team of committed craftsmen and builders, cobble together sufficient resources, and develop a shared vision of what to build.
And right now we aren’t even trying to build, we are only trying to blame. We’ve allowed ourselves to slide into the politics of anger and fear, of group name-calling, where the others—be them immigrants, bankers, or supporters of the other candidate—are stupid, crazy, or corrupt. We’ve forgotten that these nameless individuals are often our neighbors, doctors, teachers, friends, and family members.
Of course, it’s hard to build a shared vision on anything in a country like America, with so many backgrounds, heritages, beliefs, and ideologies. Since no group holds the monopoly on what it means to be American, then characteristics like race, religion, or culture don’t do much to define us as a people or to lay out a path forward
Instead, to be American is to share a set of beliefs and values, and to tirelessly pursue liberty, freedom, and justice. It’s what bound us together hundreds of years ago and it is what binds us together today. These are our central values and the ones we should be building from, ensuring that our justified anger is channeled toward creating a better future and not dividing our communities.
The problem arises when we allow emotions to become inflamed without a path for what comes next, when we aim our anger at our fellow citizens, and when we let our rage burn with no attempt to cool it down. This November election may come and pass, but healing the growing divisions within our communities and building real solutions will take much longer; so stop, take a deep breath and remember, we’re all Americans.