What would it take to bridge divides in a divided nation? It’s no secret political dissension is the primary cause of widening divides in our country today.
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our constitution,” said President John Adams.
It is that challenging moment in our history today John Adams wrote about. Building upon brewing racial, religious and ideological divides in our changing world, the two political parties keep the American electoral divide stay red and blue. As our social fabric tears apart, the leaders apply opposing measures that magnify discord.
As much as there are societal divisions, I believe there’s an equal degree of yearning among people to address them. States turning purple is evidence. Democrats, Republicans and independents want partisan harmony and consensus that promotes national reconciliation. Ordinary citizens like me want to see the communities back together and Washington return to business.
Our friends around the world want the United States politically united and they want to emulate the American democratic system. Our enemies revel in seeing the images of political violence in our nation’s capitol and our constitutional democracy trampled upon.
Stealing and not stealing the election and events like on Jan. 6 consume the attention of ordinary citizens. Critical Race Theory and science versus politics debates in the midst of a raging pandemic may be the political evil John Adams foresaw. Misinformation and conspiracy theories add fuel to the fire with divisive rhetoric and culture wars.
Arguments like the mask mandate are separating parents in our schools. A political argument against the use of masks is: The government cannot force us. Never mind that the government makes laws we all must abide by — regulations that govern every aspect of our lives, whether we’re allowed to make excessive noise within the four walls of our home that disturbs neighborhood peace or obey the traffic laws when out on the road.
Certain TV stations and biased media outlets support one or the other political spin. The pandemic enabled the social media and echo chambers that keep the individual political bases segregated, promoting disagreements over just about everything. Staying clear of all opinionated broadcasts would certainly help. What other route can we take?
The path is through our diverse neighborhoods. The hope of crossing the bridge comes from us. We then must begin by knowing those who live next door to us — our neighbors.
A Pew Research Center report revealed five facts about neighbors:
- 57% say they know only some of their neighbors; far fewer (26%) say they know most of them.
- Even in a digital age, neighborly interactions are still more likely to happen in person than via text or email.
- 66% of Americans who know at least some of their neighbors would feel comfortable asking to leave a set of keys with them for emergencies.
- Social events among neighbors are relatively rare.
- Rural residents are more likely than people in suburban and urban areas to know all or most of their neighbors, but they aren’t more likely to interact with them.
Knowing the other is the key that leads to building friendly circles of conversations that lead to understanding, to overcome misinformation, and to go past uncompromising social, political and religious chasms — to learn about each other beyond the vicious stereotypes. Person by person, friendly neighbor by friendly neighbor, good-hearted people can change the world.
Said Jesus, “Love thy neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus 19:18.
“And be good to the neighbor who is your relative and to the neighbor who is not a relative.” Quran 4:36.
We need to expand and build those circles of neighborly love and respect. That cure is not overnight, but the healing would begin when we come to understand how people’s world views have come so far apart, to learn about their unique ideas and perceptions of issues.
It’s hard work but we must step up if we want to bridge divides.
Victor Ghalib Begg is a Muslim community activist and interfaith leader who lives in Fort Pierce. His latest book is “Our Muslim Neighbors — Achieving the American Dream; An Immigrant’s Memoir.”
( Source: TC Palm, USA Today Network )