We Are Americans, So Let’s Heal Our Deep Divisions

“Hearken not to the unnatural voice which tells you that the people of America, knit together as they are by so many cords of affection, can no longer live together as members of the same family; can no longer continue the mutual guardians of their mutual happiness. … No, my countrymen, shut your ears against this unhallowed language. Shut your hearts against the poison which it conveys.”

These words, written by James Madison in The Federalist 14 some 233 years ago, are as true today as they were more than 215 years ago. In fact, it can be argued that the rise of internet, cable television and social media platforms that Madison’s words are more important in 2020 than they were in the days of the horse and buggy.

Elections are always a time for rhetorical flourishes and slogans, and this year’s race for president was no different. As we wake up this morning it’s been four days since the last ballot was cast, yet the rhetoric hasn’t ended as votes are still tallied, lawsuits are filed and recounts are discussed. President Donald Trump and former vice preesident Joe Biden are polar opposites in nearly every way, and the rhetoric of the campaign has painted each in unflattering terms. Trump has been painted as a fascist, a racist, a buffoon, a philanderer and a crook, while Biden has been painted as an over-the-hill politician who is a mere placeholder for younger, more liberal successors who want to bring socialism to the masses.

Those are the perceptions of our candidates this year, and those perceptions aren’t going to change anytime soon.

What, though, of those who voted for the either of these flawed candidates?

That’s a division we can and should heal.

One of the most disappointing things to hear during this election season is the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” rhetoric coming from Biden and Trump supporters. With absentee ballots yet to be counted, 31,247 Chautauqua County residents voted for Trump in this year’s election. We would certainly hope Democrats don’t think that a full quarter of our county’s population falls into the category of racists, fascists or unthinking buffoons. Likewise, 16,200 ballots have thus far been cast for Joe Biden. That doesn’t mean Biden voters espouse everything that has been tied to Biden.

Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, have vastly different ideas about our nation’s future paths and policies. The never-ending rhetoric means we dig into our positions focused on the next political victory or the next political point. The result is the gridlock we see in the halls of government, where a relatively simple matter like passing a much-needed round of COVID-19 stimulus aid, is seen in the realm of political gamesmanship rather than help for people who desperately need it.

It is long past time to heal our divisions — racial, socio-economical and, yes, political. We are not Democrats or Republicans. We are not liberals or conservatives. We are not simply Biden or Trump supporters. We are Americans. We can all advocate for our visions of our national future while living together as the same American family. If we accept that reality, maybe we can come together and accomplish real change that benefits us all.


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