This year’s American 4th of July celebration marked a new era. Especially on social media. Oh the usual celebratory posts were there, but so too were new posts, disturbing posts, posts that signal a new dawning of division within and throughout our country.
What were those ‘founding fathers’ signing independence from anyway?
Having already cut most major ties to England, and establishing their own congress, currency, army, and post office the Colonies, through a letter drafted by Thomas Jefferson, explained that a they had a right to change governments if it becomes unfair and controlling further explaining that governments fail when they no longer have the consent of the governed.
In short, what Jefferson said when he wrote if “any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute New Government.” was that if a government starts to destroy people’s rights, rather than protecting them, the people have the right to change that form of government and start a new one that will protect those rights.
This is all fine and well until one begins to consider what those rights are and what they mean.
This then, is the crux of the matter when it comes to the political divide in the United States. Conservatives vs Liberals. Everyone falls somewhere on this spectrum whether they align with a political party or none at all, their views will fall across the conservative and liberal spectrum often crossing both and also leaning one way or the other depending upon the issue.
Thus, we have become a divided country of those who are labeled as one or the other.
Here’s the thing.
What if you win?
It doesn’t matter which ‘side’ you’re on, think about the answer to the question what if you win?
Meaning, let us say that you have a magic wand and with one flick of your wrist you can change the entire three branches of the US Government (Congress, Presidency, and Supreme Court) to match your views exactly. You win.
Oh sure, you might be jumping up and down with joy because finally, FINALLY, all your screaming and shouting has come to fruition and the country is now being run the way you believe it should be.
There’s just one or two small problems with this magical scenario.
The first, and probably the most significant, is that you have now become the same form of Government that the Colonies were fighting to become independent of. English King George was the winner. He was running the government the way HE and his friends thought it should be run. It was his view, his take on conservative and liberal governance that was the law of the land and to hell with what anyone else thought.
The second problem is that your view, is not everyone’s view.
In the 2016 election, as no doubt we have all heard before, roughly 25% of the voting public voted one way, 25% voted the other way, and just under half of the country didn’t think either way was worth voting for at all. So, at best, “your way” likely only matches 25% of the people. \
If we look back at what Thomas Jefferson was saying, that people had a right to change governments if it becomes unfair and controlling and that governments fail when they no longer have the consent of the governed, clearly having only 25% of people agreeing with ‘your way’ is not the consent of governed, but merely a small portion of it.
To reiterate, this applies no matter which side of the conservative or liberal point of view you happen to side with.
This 4th of July I saw posts from people who said they were ‘no longer proud to be an American’.
Others were still spewing hatred towards the ‘other side’ out of fear of what that other side might do in the future.
Some were calling for a new Civil War while others declared victory in finally getting the country ‘back on track’.
We have forgotten that opposing viewpoints are part of what makes good government. It’s part of what allows us to continually evolve beyond dictatorship or authoritarian rule. Government should never be about what one side wants, but compromising and continually expanding our viewpoints to learn new and better ways of living with those who think and look and act differently than we do. This is no different than people who settled new lands since the beginning of time learned when they found that only by working together could they build their communities, towns, and cities and eventually countries in order to survive.
If all we do is cry out about how ‘wrong’ those with differing viewpoints are, or spread hatred and fear about what will happen if ‘they’ are allowed to do what “they” want to do, we will never become what those brave colonialists intended when they risked everything to begin anew in what we call ‘the experiment’ of America.
If we can only see our side as ‘right’ and their side as ‘wrong’ we are no different from those who rule over lands and peoples all throughout history and the world without thought or care for those they govern.
Let us remember what we gained independence from.
Let us listen with open ears and hearts. Listen to understand, not to judge or argue or fight.
Let us remember that hatred and distrust, fear mongering, and calls for civil war do not bring communities together and that without compromise, without understanding, without a common goal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness FOR ALL, we will not survive beyond the bitter infighting and destruction of civilizations that have happened throughout history.
The intent of the United States of America was supposed to be better than that.