The US election results (or lack thereof) have been the shock heard round the world, and it isn’t just the protests, pre-mature claims of victory, and accusations of fraud that have people unsettled — it’s the closeness of the race. A landslide win was projected for Biden by many, but the narrow margins by which states are being won and lost make clear just how divided the nation truly is. We are being forced to face the question that has been murmured reluctantly in the shadows for a few years now: is America on the precipice of a civil war?
While I believe that the vast majority of Americans would say they were opposed to civil war, we also seem alarmingly opposed to compromise and building bridges. The notion of finding common ground and treating with respect and civility those with whom you disagree seems to have become the mark of the immoral. The public lashed out viciously at Ellen DeGeneres last summer after she was seen laughing and having polite conversation with former Republican President George Bush. Some public figures removed their names from a letter promoting freedom of speech, citing not that they had changed their position on free speech, but that they would not have signed the letter had they known who else was signing it.
We have shifted into a dichotomic realm wherein any single belief, statement, action or connection taints and then defines you, and to work toward understanding or reconciliation with someone who is tainted is to make a deal with the devil. However, as we look at the deep divide through America, our choice is becoming undeniably clear — find common ground, or prepare for war.
How can a nation so polarized, so hurt, and so angry come together again? I believe we must start with a desire to do so. If we let it sink in that the alternative to reconciliation is the end of our nation, perhaps we can approach one another with a more genuine investment in finding a way to work together.
We can make the idea of working with our so-called “enemies” more palatable if we are willing to accept that we may be applying the labels of “enemy,” “evil,” “idiot” and so many others too liberally, and that this is ultimately…