There has always been something different about America. We declared our freedom from a monarch and acknowledged that our rights were from God, not man. The rights enumerated included life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We then loaned rights to our government to allow for the governance of our nation but always retained the rights of the individuals.
While we were not all free, nor did we have the right to vote at the time of our nation's birth, through civil war, the civil rights movement, and the women's suffrage and rights movements, we have moved toward attaining the ideals outlined at our founding. Movement toward perfecting this vision of independence has often been short-lived, interrupted by reversals and injustices. But, overall, we have kept moving forward. It's the forward movement that is important. While the pace might seem slow, the journey is great. We must not grow weary of doing the work that is needed to experience the freedoms enumerated at our founding.
These past few weeks, we have all been focused on hard events: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and economic destruction resulting from the shutdown; the disgustingly horrific death of George Floyd; the peaceful protests, some of which turned destructive and violent; the abandonment of a police precinct in Minneapolis due to the inability of the police to protect their own offices; the burning of a historic church in Washington, D.C.; looting during the riots; and the deployment of the National Guard, State Guard and others to instill order. We are in a stage of inflamed emotions, fueled by economic distress and fear of the pandemic, with millions of us stuck mostly at home, glued to news and social media.
We are in the midst of a crisis of our own making as a nation.
But I have faith. I believe in the American ideal — that we are all equal — even if it is not lived out today. I believe that everyone is a child of God, that they have infinite worth and that, even through anger, we can eventually achieve peace and solidarity. But first, we must begin to breathe again.
If we want to address the fracturing of America, we must do so together, and we must start by listening. In researching for my book, "Our Broken America: Why Both Sides Need to Stop Ranting and Start Listening," I discovered that 55% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats say they have few or no friends in the other political party. This isn't something that members of either side of the aisle can improve on their own. It is only through honest conversations with your neighbors, your friends and the new people you bring into your life that we can begin to really hear one another again.
Our political polarization has helped inspire extreme reactions. When we are ranting at one another from our own separate corners, our own news sources and our own social media clusters, we cannot listen, and we cannot solve anything. We have to stop reacting to everything out of our deep-seated ideologies and start having real conversations with one another again.
Our nation is exceptional. Our nation is worth saving. This country has always been unique; we were founded as a democracy, with a set of ideals. Though we sometimes failed to live up to those ideals, we have kept trying to achieve them throughout generations. As decade piled upon decade, some periods in history have felt like setbacks, but others have moved us forward in great leaps, making America a kinder, more inclusive, more egalitarian place.
Right now feels like one of those setback periods, with neighbor turned against neighbor. But I can see a pinprick of light at the end of this tunnel.
I want to remind people that America holds out the same promise to everyone — if we work together, shoulder to shoulder, despite and because of our differences, we can accomplish anything. We have fought many wars as a country, but right now we are engaged in a battle for our soul. This isn't a battle we can win with weapons; on the contrary, I want everyone to lay their weapons down. This is a battle we fight by listening to the quiet voices of reason within each of us. So, stop ranting, America, and start listening.
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