The United States has long been the beacon of hope for the world. Nations and their people look to the United States for guidance and a sense of inspiration and aspiration for what’s possible. People around the globe abandon their families and flee their countries to immigrate to this great Nation. Rarely do people flee from the United States. Freedom and the idea of individual liberty — vital tenets of the human experience — are the very foundation of America. The ability to indeed be free of government oppression and tyranny hasn’t been better represented by any nation in history than the United States.
Yet, despite its tremendous success, the United States is struggling to maintain its highest ideals. Hyperpartisanship and tribalism have a vice grip on the country and are wreaking havoc. If we don’t get a grip on our current circumstances, the country we know may cease to exist for future generations.
According to Freedom House, a federally funded nonprofit that conducts research and advocacy on democracy and political freedom, democracy is under attack by leaders and groups that reject pluralism and freedom of thought. Now, in the United States, the last frontier of the free world is facing unprecedented division and turmoil through rhetoric and violent action by extremist groups on both the right and left. From antifa on the left to the extremist militant groups on the right, neither party is innocent. And America as we know it is the victim. To course-correct, America must get a handle on both extreme ideologies.
As we react to the results of the 2020 election, tensions could continue to rise, further cementing our wide and varied divisions. Given the current climate, it is reasonable to expect that some may react violently, spinning the country into turmoil, the likes of which we haven’t seen in over one-hundred-fifty years. Americans from all walks of life should be concerned about the social unrest facing this country and they should not underestimate the magnitude of this moment.
Despite what some would have you think, the present-day social and political condition of the United States has been long in the making. It did not arise from Donald Trump’s election in 2016, although he is not innocent. We can look to the changing media landscape, certain political characters who use vitriolic rhetoric to pit different Americans against each other and countless years of negative sentiments and hyperbolic. By encouraging the worst aspects of the human condition, these individuals and powerful entities have paved the road that Americans are walking on today.
However, there is still hope. Many Americans have made it clear that they continue to believe in this great nation and its founding principles. According to a Gallup poll in 2019, 70% of Americans view the American dream as personally achievable. This tells us that despite the national discord, Americans continue to believe that America is the greatest country in the world. On our shores, you can still find the finest representation of liberty and justice for all, regardless of our internal flaws. Still, the question remains: What happens if fewer and fewer Americans believe that to be true? The same data from Gallup shows that 60% of U.S. adults say that “it is very or somewhat likely that today’s youth will have a better life than their parents did.” So, it begs the question: If most Americans believe this, who is causing the division among us, and what must we do to stop it?
I think that the first step is accepting the results of a fair election once every ballot has been cast and counted. The next step is to turn off the television and stop listening to partisan political leaders and start talking to one another as neighbors and friends. It’s time for us to seek the similarities in those with whom we might outwardly differ. This is the only way to preserve democracy in a nation as diverse as ours.
As I think about the future of America, I have to believe that we can restore order and civility and help lead the rest of the world back to political civility. We can build up civil society organizations such as churches and nonprofits to restore our faith, rebuild our sense of hope and bring Americans together to help the least fortunate among us, restoring unity. This election can either be the start of this new journey or it could be the start of our destruction. The decision is ours to make and ours alone and we must believe in one another, differences aside, to regain our sense of pride as Americans.