Op­pos­ing ideas blend into Amer­i­can ideals

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

It has been a di­vided first half of the year for these United States, po­lit­i­cally speak­ing. Repub­li­cans haven’t con­trolled this many branches of gov­ern­ment since George W. Bush’s sec­ond pres­i­den­tial term, and yet Democrats seem more staunchly left-lean­ing than ever be­fore in their grow­ing ef­forts to battle poli­cies com­ing out of Con­gress and nom­i­nees and ex­ec­u­tive or­ders com­ing from the White House.

But it’s easy to get caught up in the midst of cur­rent events and present-day ten­sions, and to for­get that this coun­try has al­ways been a na­tion di­vided — al­beit some decades more strongly than oth­ers.

On Tuesday, we will cel­e­brate In­de­pen­dence Day, mark­ing the 241st year since the sign­ing of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, in which Amer­i­cans claimed their in­de­pen­dence from the rule of Great Bri­tain. Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War era his­tory buffs might note, how­ever, that this was hardly a unan­i­mous way of think­ing. It took weeks of de­bate to draft the doc­u­ment, and sev­eral colonies still felt break­ing away from Bri­tain wasn’t in their peo­ple’s best in­ter­est. It still took over a decade, and an­other solid round of heavy ar­gu­ing, to draft the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

But fi­nally, by the 1790s, we had a con­sti­tu­tion meant to unite us all un­der one road map of fed­eral law. So the ar­gu­ing could stop, right? Wrong.

The po­lit­i­cal cli­mate in the United States only grew more and more heated, even­tu­ally di­vid­ing north and south so deeply that war broke out among the states, with 11 South­ern states se­ced­ing from the Union to form the Con­fed­er­ate States of Amer­ica, in an ef­fort to pro­tect states’ rights and their eco­nomic re­liance on slav­ery. (Two border states, Ken­tucky and Mis­souri, didn’t break away of­fi­cially, but were also rec­og­nized as part of the Con­fed­er­acy.) The North won the war, of course, and Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln eman­ci­pated the slaves. But that cer­tainly wasn’t the end of the South’s po­lit­i­cal dis­agree­ments with the North, nor was it the end of in­jus­tices and dis­crim­i­na­tion suf­fered by African-Amer­i­cans in this coun­try.

Our coun­try has never been as dras­ti­cally or vi­o­lently torn as it was dur­ing the Civil War. And that in­cludes the po­lit­i­cally tur­bu­lent eras of the Great De­pres­sion, World War II and the Mc­Carthy com­mu­nist witch hunt and decades-long Cold War that fol­lowed. It in­cludes the era of protests in the 1960s and 1970s — the fem­i­nist “bra-burn­ing” move­ment, the civil rights de­mon­stra­tions and March on Wash­ing­ton to de­feat racial seg­re­ga­tion, the anti-Viet­nam War ral­lies.

It in­cludes the im­me­di­ate dis­trust of Mus­lim Amer­i­cans fol­low­ing the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks, and our in­creased mil­i­tary pres­ence in the Mid­dle East that re­sulted — is­sues that still di­vide us to­day.

Here’s the take­away: We may be a na­tion di­vided, but that is noth­ing new for Amer­ica. She has seen ri­ots, wars and evils in her nearly 250-year his­tory, and yet she still stands, united by one flag and one di­verse melt­ing pot of of­ten com­bat­ive view­points and op­pos­ing ideals. Our dif­fer­ences may lead to civil and po­lit­i­cal un­rest at times, but they are also what make us so uniquely Amer­i­can. They drive us to con­front our fears and our mis­trust, and to ini­ti­ate the dis­cus­sions that even­tu­ally drive change and move us for­ward as one na­tion.

So re­mem­ber our di­vi­sive roots this week­end as you find your­self in the midst of a po­lit­i­cal feud at the fam­ily back­yard bar­be­cue. These stars and stripes are sewn to­gether with end­less fibers of dif­fer­ence — in age, race, eth­nic­ity, re­li­gion, in­come, sex and be­liefs — and that’s OK. In fact, that’s some­thing well worth cel­e­brat­ing. Happy birth­day, Amer­ica.

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