“One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” —U.S. Pledge of Allegiance
Most presidents utter these words: “I want to bring our nation together.” They continue, “I want to be the president for everyone.” We may appreciate their sentiment and want to believe they truly see this as a noble goal, but frankly, in the 21st century those words are vacant from the reality of our nation. Each president rents those phrases in the early days of their administration, but they never truly own them.
In recent times, an unpopular war and an economic crisis under George W. Bush brought division, as did the first African-American president, whose progressive agenda was characterized by the right wing as socialist, a term that surely brings the “us against them” zeitgeist. In 2016 we witnessed one of the nastiest presidential elections between two polarizing candidates. The result was a narrow and controversial victory for Donald Trump. He once proclaimed his desire for unity; since taking office, he’s proceeded to seek an agenda so divisive even people in his own party have trouble supporting it.
As children, many of us stood in school, hand over our heart, and said the pledge of allegiance. Those words were splendid, shining with high moral principles and aspiring ideals. This was not just a pledge but a reaffirming of a brotherhood with every citizen in our nation. Today with a national population of over 325 million, should we expect to share a sense of unity with that many people?
Certainly, in our history, periods of conflict have divided our people: a civil war over the Southern institution of slavery, the struggles of labor versus owners over livable wages and working conditions, and the competing forces of racial equality. At the other end of the spectrum there were events that brought us together: overcoming the Great Depression, victory in WWII, and, recently, a brief unity after 9/11.
Our troubled nation has divided into two countries. Unfortunately, we are at one of the most critical turning points for this nation. The challenges we face and must solve are monumental if we dare dream of the United States as a global leader in the 21st century: climate change, a crisis that is not just a national but a global threat to our way of life; income inequality that has exponentially widened the gap between rich and poor and shrinks the middle class; an economy that must see globalization as an asset rather than a talking point for a populist president who says “Buy American” but produces many of his business’s products in foreign countries.
A bipartisan solution with an eye to the future must be found rather than keeping an unsustainable foothold in the past. And leaders from both parties must will use their bully pulpits to highlight the importance of working together as a key component in finding solutions. Instead, one nation has evolved into two countries, resulting in stalemates we cannot afford.
While Republicans in Congress and this president use these issues as divisive rhetoric to form and continue to cultivate their base, they have created a separate country within a nation. Two countries that now possess very different outlooks on very similar interests.
The denial that global warming is man-made is not only dangerous but will leave America behind in the race for new renewable technologies. A nation whose lower-income citizens are at the mercy of low wages and higher prices affects a middle class who rely on their business. When this same middle class sees their income become stagnant, they in turn purchase less. The positive effects of a Dow rising create wealth for those at the very top and an illusion of a better life for everyone else.
Every person with children in America, whether in a blue state or a red state, should want a better life for the next generation: a living planet that does not heat to the point of causing droughts and devastation; a country where work is rewarded with incomes that achieve the American Dream; an educational system that gives us a competitive edge in a global economy so we are again the envy of the world.
But keeping your base misinformed with less-than-truthful information in order to hold their vote is nothing more than perpetuating lost generations unable to understand the inevitable. Using your office as president as a pedestal to tell one lie after another undermines our basic value that truth is something we can all share no matter where we live.
Being disingenuous about the most important issues and leading people astray is a cruelty that will eventually diminish all of us. It will partition one nation into two countries, something one president warned against many years ago, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”