In search of a path to unity


The Dallas Morning News

After a bruising and often bitter election cycle, how does a divided nation heal?

The answer involves something much harder than campaigning or championing your own cause. Regardless of the results, the truth is that healing the divisions of a large and diverse nation like this begins with all of us doing all we can, as individuals and as part of the body politic, to avoid further divisions.

Behind political fractures are extensive histories of problems and grievances, some quite evident and unresolved, others buried in political narratives and ruminations that deviously distort reality. Narratives become weaponized as blame, excuses and ideological justifications, effectively recirculating the same virus in the echo-sphere.

Welcome to America 2020, a nation divided by pandemic, politics and polemics.

We are the United States of America, but much about our present suggests that we could just as easily be called the Untied States of America.

For example, in Washington, D.C., the co-equal branches of government should draw us together and moderate our most extreme impulses. Instead, they have served, often by design, to drive us apart and to amplify the divisions on social media with scant regard to truth or consequences.

The United States has avoided becoming the Untied States because it has a robust guiding document — the United States Constitution — to bind together diverse interests. When we find reasons, including baseless conspiracy theories, to fray this delicate relationship, we’re playing with fire.

America is undergoing ideological, religious, political and economic schisms that test basic American beliefs in ways this nation has yet to grasp. Futurist Juan Enriquez raised this about 15 years ago in his book “The Untied States of America: Polarization, Fracturing and Our Future,” where he broached the unsettling thought that no nation has remained preeminent forever.

It’s something most of us know from even a cursory study of history, but Americans aren’t predisposed to contemplate schism as a possibility in our future. Our hemisphere has been remarkably stable, so a time of upheaval seems impossible.

As citizens we performed our right to vote in extraordinary numbers. Now our obligation is to a Constitution that promises inclusion and a system of government built on checks and balances.

It is fruitless to imagine that the divergent views of our political past and present will suddenly align. Our national focus must be on how to improve the present and future, and to stop peddling fear and justifications for not having the tough conversations that we must have. This will be a slow and arduous process, but the alternative — increasing division — is unthinkable.

At some point, all nations face challenges to core principles from within or from outside their borders. Many times before, Americans have confronted our internal doubts peacefully, with a moral resolve that gives lie to those who would have a nation that doesn’t insist on equality under the law.

Our healing must start now.

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