American values have long been a bedrock of our national persona. Similar to our iconic symbols, the Stars and Stripes, the Statue of Liberty, or the national anthem; there were certain principles that we all held dear. We believed in the integrity of our national institutions. We believed that our votes were all weighed equally. We believed that we could disagree with our leaders, or other citizens, within an environment of civility and safety. We held our principles dear.
Like many citizens, I am disheartened by the current state of affairs in our nation. But this isn’t about left or right; blue or red. This is about our national principles. The ones we claim to cherish.
It seems principles are no longer our bottom line. They are no longer our bedrock. Instead, our American values are now micro-selected on a case by case basis. Violations of our principles are first scrutinized to determine if the offense is red or blue; right or left. Parties now trump principles. We’re practicing micro American-omics.
Take this past week for example. In a normal society, 14 IED devices being sent to various citizens would alarm an entire nation. A society would be galvanized to find the perpetrator, and to secure the safety of our citizens. But instead, we’ve become a society that first checks to see if party, ethnic, or race lines are involved. What is the race or religion of the bomber? What party or ethnicity were the targets? Our outrage, or our silence, is often determined only after we’ve first decided how it fits our current narrative. Principles give way to partisan lines.
Instead of patriotism around national values, a divisive groupthink is further entrenched.
For the record, I do not consider myself blue or red, left or right, Democrat or Republican. I vote on both sides of the aisle, although I do have many concerns about our current president and his administration. But my hope is that citizens would look beyond parties, and focus more on the principles they hold dear and the character of the candidates.
Social media has the power to bring us together, but also to pull us apart. I find it harder and harder to read the posts of people who decry political violence, but only when it fits their narrative. Rather than employing critical thinking skills, citizens quickly dismiss stories that call the tactics of their leaders into question, labeling them as “fake news”, regardless of any amount of science or facts. It simply doesn’t fit with their pre-conceived story. The other side isn’t only viewed as ideologically wrong, but as morally corrupt, intellectually inept, and incapable of grasping the truth.
I’ve posted my own share of concerns, as I’ve found myself continually shocked by the seemingly bottomless lowering of our national discourse, especially where our nation’s leader is concerned. I falsely assumed my words might make a difference. That others would pause and consider the reflections, or at least engage in thoughtful discourse. But sadly, most are either turned off to the political noise, or they are already entrenched in their narratives, and only interested in trolling the comments of others.
Even some of the people I respect and admire the most, have fallen prey to entrenched partisan thinking. Their praise, criticisms, and outrage are selectively applied, only when it suits their pre-determined partisan affiliations. Principles only matter when it fits their narrative.
While I respect that we all share different convictions about multiple topics, we can all agree that the encouragement of violence against our political rivals has no place in our national discourse. If you condemn threats against political rivals, I hope you publicly condemn both the actions of the bomber, as well as the presidents’ own threatening comments; with a similar vigor, regardless of your party affiliation. Calls for violence are despicable, whether they come from the left or the right. And when the violent rhetoric is only selectively condemned, depending on which party it originates from, or benefits, then it appears that it is no longer truly a principle we stand on, but a partisan talking point. And I’d like to believe that you and I want to be above that partisan divide. We want to be, whenever and wherever possible, voices that heal. Voices that unify. We might not unify people around similar topics or issues, but we can do so around principles of mutual respect, and decency. Those principles are macro, not micro. They transcend partisan talking points, and should always be the bedrock of our national heritage.