Politics of them divide us
Nebraska Senator Ben
Sasse has written a book, “Them: Why We Hate Each Other – And How To Heal.” Sasse explores the many reasons we hate each other, and suggests three points we can do to heal our divisions.
Sasse summarizes three actions he calls “inches” to heal our social and political divides: The
First Inch: Reject Anti-Identities; The Second Inch: Put Politics in Its Proper Place; and, The Third Inch: Live Local.
He uses a lot of sports analogies to deliver his message about “antiidentities,” which people use to identify who or what they oppose. Sasse notes his antagonisms against rival teams from the local to national levels while he was growing up; then he confesses now how much more similar rivals are than different.
Sasse writes, “Saying that ‘civility matters' is too simple – and too boring. What we need is something bigger: We need to believe that both the dignity of our opponents, and the character we aim to model for our kids, require some basic rules for public debate.” Later he writes, “Accountability starts at home, and ‘what-about-ism' is an intellectually vacuous way to live a life – not to mention being a morally bankrupt way to raise our kids.”
“Put Politics in Its Proper Place,” as Sasse sees it: “Civics is about who we are as a people. A nation requires a framework of shared values, a set of core commitments. Our Framers articulated those first principles in the First Amendment.” He says we have replaced ‘civics' with politics. Then he writes, “Civil discord has always been the gravest threat to America's security.” We're not only fighting within, but we're also being divided by many foreign entities through social media and, in some cases, through news and entertainment media.
Americans have largely lost the values that laid the foundation of our Republic. Alexis de Tocqueville in his “Democracy in America,” wrote, “Americans come together to hold celebrations, to build hotels, to erect churches, to start libraries, to send missionaries to every corner of the earth….” Then, he noted, “Every job that in France would be done by the government or in England by some great noble, in America you can bet is being done by a group of volunteers.”
Finally Sasse recommends living locally. “Our identity cannot be found in anti-tribes. It cannot be found in politics. And it cannot be found flitting about, here, there everywhere … nowhere. We find lives of meaning and purpose at and near home.”
To resolve our differences, he suggests, “What is needed is for people from both sides to agree that political and policy divides are not our primary identities or our primary divides. As Americans, we need to agree first on the universal dignity of all people, before we descend to the more divisive but less important debates about the prudential use of the levers of government power. If we fail to do that – that is, if we begin by regarding policy divides as ultimate – then we'll inevitably all become the shrieking types. We'll ultimately reduce all community events into platforms for hysterical politics.”
While the media, politicians and pundits in Washington and New York increasingly shriek hysterical politics, the rest of us should remember we're all Americans with more in common than not. Reject anti-identities, put politics in its proper place, and live locally.
Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville, MS. You may contact him at [email protected] com, or interact with him on the ClarionLedger web site http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/