By Jonathan Lange, columnist
“History, faith and reason show the way, the way of unity. We can see each other, not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos.” – President Joseph R. Biden, Inaugural Address.
Measuring by the nastiness of cable news and the party spirit of national newspapers, America is more deeply divided than at any time in living memory. The division may run as deep as at any time in history.
Yet, for all the rancor, there remains a deep longing for unity.
In fact, more than a mere longing, Americans are actually united on several key points. All people across the political spectrum long to see a resurgence of dignity, respect and neighborliness. I have never met anyone who wants the bitterness, fury and “exhausting outrage” that surrounds us. No lover of America can possibly be pleased with the incessant chaos that poisons our world.
Take a moment to reflect on this fact. Test it with your neighbors, families and friends. See if you can find someone who does not wish for universal recognition of each person’s dignity and respect. I don’t think you will find such an animal.
If I am right about my supposition, it should lead you to ask a follow-up question: If nobody wants the chaos and division we are experiencing, why can we not put an end to it? Who or what is hindering American unity?
Know this first, it is not the occupant of the Oval Office. Honest observers of the culture must admit that today’s rancor has been escalating across five administrations, at least. For three decades, every president has been vilified by political opponents as the incarnation of evil itself.
While this is a great fundraising strategy that whips the base into a fury, it does nothing to help Americans either understand or resist the true forces of evil that are pushing America toward the cliff. This is by design. Enemies of the American people want us to fixate on personalities. In that way, they can distract good-hearted citizens from finding commonalities that build unity.
The fact is that the forces dividing America have played us like well-tuned fiddles. They use caustic “identity politics” to set mom-and-pop Republicans, Democrats and Independents at one another’s throats so that they can advance an agenda against all Americans, regardless of who occupies the White House.
But salt-of-the-earth people are getting wise to this cynical game. More and more Americans see the real threat to America. It lies in armies of lawyers, advisors and agency officials scattered across Washington, D.C. who hem the president in on every side. They withhold information, dishonestly spin facts, slow-walk presidential orders, criminally leak to a compliant press, and generally abuse government power to manipulate the president into advancing their agenda, not ours.
While the occupant of the White House is not completely inconsequential, it is the worldview of unnamed bureaucrats—more than the man in office—that does the most damage to American ideals. As good neighbors from both parties awaken to this fact, it gives us an opportunity to unite against a common enemy.
The first step toward unity is to reject identity politics with a vengeance. This is not only necessary toward reducing the rancor of public discourse. It is also necessary so that we can get off the merry-go-round of personal vilification and start addressing the real problems.
If you think anyone who voted for Donald Trump is a threat to America, stop it! If you think insulting President Biden will help America, you are dead wrong. If you won’t listen to someone unless he first admits that the election was fairly won, or if you refuse to call Joe Biden your president, you will not be inviting honest engagement, but playing into the hands of your enemies.
Remember, the real enemies of America are enemies of Democrats as much as they are enemies of Republicans. They want nothing more than partisan simplification: “two legs bad, four legs good.” Such behavior only leads to a blanket condemnation of everything that one administration does and a blank check for whatever the other administration does. This fatally short-circuits debate, and naively ignores the forces manipulating both administrations.
America united to defeat fascism in World War II, and to defeat communism in the Cold War. Common Americans accomplished this despite the evil forces that were tearing us apart in the decadent 20s. Anti-God, anti-family, anti-freedom forces are on the move today.
As in the past, common Americans can defeat them if we refuse to let them divide us.