Can we set aside our differences to unite and avoid self-destruction?

Georgia Rep. Sharon Beasley-Teague, D-Red Oak (center), joins hand with Georgia Supreme Court Justice David Nahmias (right) and Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, D-Lithonia (left), during a moment of prayer at a ceremony paying tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at the Statehouse on Jan. 17 in Atlanta.

 

I hope I am not the only one worried about the mind-set of our country as a whole today. It seems that the freedom we exude as the cornerstone of our democracy is being destroyed by the very foundation upon which it is built: responsibility – responsibility to the nation.

Party politics seems to be the flavor of the day. We would rather destroy one another than work together. Not in my lifetime have I seen such loyalty and responsibility to party politics as there seems to be today. I wonder how a nation can survive in an atmosphere so divided where party is first and country is last.

 

WHERE IS THE CALL to unite? You won’t find it in the news, local governments, state governments or the national government. You won’t find it in our places of worship, either. Each entity is staking out its own position, declaring its own territory and drawing a line in the sand. It almost seems that freedom has had an opposite effect on us. Instead of making us more united and better people, it has divided us to the point of no return, it seems.

Democrats can’t speak well of Republicans, and vice versa. Muslims can’t speak well of Christians and vice versa. Conservatives can’t speak well of liberals and vice versa. Muslims and Jews seem to hate each other.

Is there an exception out there? Is there any of us left who has not taken a position so hardened with propaganda that it has replaced what is right with what is expedient – conservatism, liberalism or any other thing we can think of that tends to divide us rather than unite us as a nation, a state or a county?

 

I LONG FOR THE DAY when we speak with one voice, especially a voice that brings us together for our common good. However, like the prophets of old, I do not see that day coming soon. I see just the opposite. I see Rome – the greatest empire ever built – falling to its knees. We seem to be on a trajectory of self-destruction. The signs are all around us. We are a dysfunctional family. All of us seem to be going our separate ways. The tail is wagging the dog. When will we ever learn from history?

Speaking of history: One of the worst things that happened to this nation, whether we admit it or not, was the Civil War, the wounds of which have never been healed. This conflict, which started out as a disagreement, ended up in a war that could not be resolved for the common good of the nation. This nation has been divided ever since. The victory that was celebrated at Appomattox Courthouse was never a real victory. The wounds are just as open today as they were the days they were inflicted. We still have the North and the South.

Abraham Lincoln said that a nation divided against itself cannot stand. We are a divided nation. If these words of Lincoln mean anything to those of us today who say we love our country, we should do whatever it takes to unite us, including breaking loyalty to groups or individuals who violate this truth.

 

YES, FREEDOM DOES cost something – not so much what we spend defending ourselves from outside forces. In the whole scheme of things, it doesn’t matter when we are destroying ourselves from within. The viciousness with which we speak of one another is a weapon of destruction. The only way we can be secure from the enemy from without is to first destroy the enemy within.

It is a liberating feeling to be able to break out of the clique and say what we really believe. Is there a conservative out there bold enough to say something good about a liberal? A Jew about a Christian? A white about a black? It’s no easy task. Ask the New Jersey governor.

 

BUT THOSE OF US who dare to be exceptional will never be the same again. Yes, we will be criticized, friends will leave us, family members will stop speaking to us and we won’t be invited to social functions. But let me tell you from experience: None of these things can compare to living a conscience-free life, one
where we first can be true to ourselves, then to others.

We have sung about how we love our country: “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died! Land of the Pilgrim’s pride! From every mountain side, let freedom ring.” Can we afford freedom in the true sense of the word, or are we tied too much to our political persuasions to show that love?

 

(The writer is a former Augusta City Council member and a retired labor relations manager from Bechtel Savannah River Inc.)

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