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Where Do We Go From Here as Americans?

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

If you are like me, you have been glued to the presidential race and your social media feed. However this contentious race pans out, we all have a much more profound question we need to ask ourselves: Where do we go from here as Americans?

The winner of this election, whoever that may be, will prove that we are a deeply divided nation that is hurting right now. We are split practically in half on all the major issues, just like we are split in half over who we voted for.

Rally in Action

It is unfathomable to a Biden supporter how anyone could vote for Trump. On the other hand, Trump supporters do not understand how Biden supporters can vote for him. This is a much larger problem than our voting process. It seems like there is no common ground left for us to stand united on. 

Why is this such a dire problem?

I have heard the term ‘civil war’ thrown around a lot lately on my social media. We just went through an incredibly tense racial movement. Our president is undermining our democratic process.

There is no stability. Unstable things explode. Empires rise, and they can fall. We need only look to history to glean some insight into how profound this problem is. The civil war started because we found ourselves too divided.

Robert E. Lee, had a cautionary quote about civil war, “A Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me.”

It is also a problem because this type of division makes us all tired. It makes us not want to take part in politics or even do our civic duty of voting. It makes any governmental functions incredibly difficult.

The debacle that became the negotiations surrounding our second stimulus check is a perfect example. We are hobbling our ability to be an effective form of government. 

“There are seasons in every country when noise and impudence pass current for worth; and in popular commotions especially, the clamors of interested and factious men are often mistaken for patriotism.”  — Alexander Hamilton

What does it mean to be an American?

Mountvernon.org reminds us that we are not strangers to complicated processes and difficult decisions, “After four months of intense debate, the delegates finally came to an agreement, and on September 17, 1787, the Constitution as we know it was born.” This was meant to be a task to revise the Articles of Confederation, but instead, we forged a path into a bold new government. 

George Washington wrote a letter to James Madison on November 30th, 1785, that read:

“We are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a National character to support—If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it…”..

The delegates began working tirelessly on The Constitution. We need only look as far as the words of our first president to understand what being an American means. 

“It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn. The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.” — George Washington

Do we love our country more than we love a singular politician?

We have to be able to function as a political body, and all of this division that we are experiencing is eroding the bedrocks of our democracy. At some point, we have to question where our loyalties lie. Are we Americans? Or are we Trumpers, or Biden’s? Are we democrats and republicans, or are we all Americans? These are questions that we need to answer.

With enough time, I think we will all realize that we are Americans. I can completely understand being loyal to your candidate. I get the feeling of fear that your candidate is losing, but that is the way democracy works.

You have personal choices that you are able to make. If you are disillusioned with the state of your country, then you can always go live somewhere else.

I was contemplating my options, not too long ago, but I never contemplated going to war. I did not want to see the country torn down and war-ravaged.

If the majority of American people used their voices to elect someone that I abhorred, then that simply meant it wasn’t the country I thought it was, and it was time to live somewhere else.

Being an American has always been a deeply profound piece of my identity. I cry every time the national anthem is sung. ‘America the Beautiful’ always moved me to tears. Hamilton had me sobbing and feeling more patriotic than I have in years. That is why I would never wish to see it torn apart from the inside.

We, the Americans, are the only ones capable of destroying this great nation. Over the last four years, I had to put up with many things I felt were despicable, treasonous, and unpatriotic.

I did so, not because I wanted to, but because this is what democracy looks like. It is the will of people, and we had spoken. I didn’t like it, and I used my right to free speech to make my opinion heard. Then I showed up at the polls and encouraged many first time voters to come with me. 

We behave as Americans because we share the American dream. A dream that this is a land where you can pursue life, liberty, and happiness. The idea that anything is possible we are the land of the free and the home of the brave.

We are free because of processes and our laws, and our unwavering belief that a democratic republic is the best form of governance. 

“The essence of America — that which really unites us — is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion — it is an idea — and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things.” — Condoleezza Rice

We need to find a way to heal and work toward unity

Americans have always had different policies and viewpoints. We are an impassioned lively group of rebel thinkers who challenge the status quo, but we also got our blueprint for democracy from some of the greatest minds the world has seen.

They were well aware that we would disagree, and do so rather frequently, but they believed that those disagreements were a healthy discourse for arriving at the best solution.

I was having a conversation with a friend at the start of this election process. I made a comment to her about how the “people are America, we are what we are made out of.” Her response to me has stuck with me for days, she said: America is a set of values and ideals that live beyond its people.” 

That should be a rallying cry that we can all get behind. The future of this nation is at stake and it is bigger than whoever wins the election.

It is how you and I react. It is how the supporters of the other candidate behave. It is about our belief that we are one nation of individual states who come together to create amazing things. We are innovators and pioneers. We can, and should want to be, all of that again. 

“Let me speak plainly: The United States of America is and must remain a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. Our very unity has been strengthened by this pluralism. That’s how we began; this is how we must always be. The ideals of our country leave no room whatsoever for intolerance, anti-Semitism, or bigotry of any kind — none.” Ronald Reagan

This is a time we typically turn to our leaders

When our country is in crisis, we turn to our leaders. I hope they come together and rebuild the country because we are all tired. We need our leaders, all of them, and not just the President of the United States, but all of them.

Our governors, our senators, and our house members need to understand that we are sending a message that all of this infighting is detrimental to the fabric of our nation.

We are coming apart at the seams, unfriending family and friends on social media because the division is seeping that deeply into our lives. I do not want to go back to “brother against brother.” I don’t believe that anyone actually wants that.

So where do we go from here? I choose to continue to be included in my local politics. I will be aware of the things my locally elected representatives are doing.

I will support the President of The United States and urge my house representatives and senators to do the same. I will listen to my neighbors even though their yard signs during this election differed from mine. What will you do?

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