By Kevin Hartung
Although not the only one, John F. Kennedy once said, “We recognize that what unites us is greater than what divides us…” This was true of both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Both held individual visions for the United States and the nation needed both men. Theirs was not a close friendship but was a viable working relationship. We must stay motivated by our collective loyalties to begin the task of cohesive unification of opposing forces.
An exceptional article on April 21, 2020, in the Saturday Evening Post by Nicholas Christakis on our connections is summarized in the following observation.
There is evidence that we all carry in the genes of our brains a blueprint, a history of evolution, that shaped us as social beings. As social animals, we are equipped with instincts of attraction, friendship, cooperation, and learning, just as we are predisposed to tribalism, aggression, brutality, and greed.
We carry innate tendencies from a deep origin that reflect both our natural states. One state that reflects primarily good, decent, and moral preferences, another state that reflects more base, brutal and immoral drives. Beings that group together prefer community and teamwork for within each of us there are, if not shared, at least similar ambitions to which others can relate. Our desires for love, family relationships, knowledge, acceptance, and the wherewithal for survival allow us to understand parallel aspirations in others.
What is apparent is that it is the interpretation of the methods used to achieve those ends that creates our judgments which, in turn, are the catalyst for separation. While we all are not part of the same group or community, we must come to terms with the fact that we can remain loyal to our group without hating another group or the ‘other.’ Today it seems that charitable forces. that once functioned for the benefit of societies, have now surrendered to the corrupt forces in society that work to divide and destroy. These forces focus on the differences among us and ignore the fact that we are transcendently linked by a shared history and desire for community.
Communities are a force for good. It is this ‘us vs them’ mentality that fragments our nation. Because we may not agree on the means to achieve an end does not mean that we do not agree with the desired end. Annihilation of any group or individual is simply wrong, morally and legally. In truth, a cohesive nation is not an ‘either/or’ issue but rather an issue of connection to what we essentially share as humans and as a nation.
There are people who are not like-minded individuals seeking agreement. They are instigators in our midst who are looking for, not peaceful resolutions, but division and discord. Their anger is fueled by the prejudices and scorn they project toward fellow Americans. They are bent on pushing us to question any ideological commitment to our common identity as Americans. Their desire for chaos serves an individual need to satisfy private revenge.
The desire for power by an individual or group is recognition of a legitimate right to seek justification for perceived damages. Lacking vindication, that desire resorts to more dramatic methods of displaying dissatisfaction. Outside interpretation of the methods employed brings judgments making cooperation a hoped-for illusion. It is this labeling and judgment that needs to be reconciled with our better nature. Given the desires we share in common, it is hard to understand why we cannot see ourselves in the ‘others’ when we could easily be placed in similar circumstances.
The fault for discord lies in everyone who refused to see the trajectory of our nation in the last half-century or saw it and remained silent. Remember, Sir Edmund Burke, said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Playing the ‘blame game’ stalled compromises and increased the upsurge of discontent on both sides of the political aisle. We can accept that corruption existed and conclude that it must be extinguished. Then move toward mutually acceptable terms on the cessation of hostilities.
We need to stop shaking our heads over whether America is falling apart. Instead, we need to look for the truth, discover the cause for the volatility and vulnerability. We need to begin discussions on why we inevitably resort to the fragmenting nature of partisanship that we know leads to division and impasse, and how to overcome that pattern in ourselves and our government. We need to restore faith and trust in our distinction as a democratic nation.
We must step back and look at our progression as a nation and our shared culture and history. If we remember that we evolved and survived as a nation because of those things we shared, we can dismiss the judgments and replace the labels. We can indulge in more compassionate and intelligent conversations around resolving our differences rather than by narrow-mindedness or a desire to lay the fault at someone’s else door
As co-members of humanity, we need to believe that most individuals share our desire for camaraderie and community. We need to believe that our elected officials share a desire for healing and resolution, that all toxic forces in our government are removed and advancement toward moral ends is achieved
The truth is all humanity is in danger when fragmentation is prevalent in societies. We must reawaken our virtues of cooperation and community. Mankind is constantly evolving and can reach for nobler heights. Without a strong commitment to our shared evolutionary values, and understanding of our imperfect communal history, we cannot grow as a civilized, cultured and peaceful race.
If you believe we are losing ground as a cohesive society, share this article so others will look for the commonality we share and overlook the differences, read Nicholas Christakis article in the Post, and restore reasonable cooperation and peace we all deserve, especially our children.