Pol­i­tics of them di­vide us

Starkville Daily News - - FORUM -

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/

DANIEL GARD­NER

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