The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)

Overcoming our divisions

- By winslow Myers Winslow Myers, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” serves on the Boards of Beyond War and the War Prevention Initiative.

“… if you want to be part of the solution, the road ahead is clear: Recognize you’re the enemy they need; show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those that brought Trump to power; by all means be patient with democracy and struggle relentless­ly to free yourself from the shackles of the caricature the populists have drawn of you.” —Andrés Miguel Rondón America cannot become great without embracing and working through the tragedy of slavery — all that has unfolded from the way that almost unimaginab­le suffering and injustice is entwined with our origin story and continues to the present day.

America cannot become great without embracing and working through the genocidal suffering undergone by Native Americans and the way that suffering and injustice is entwined with our origin story and continues to the present day.

America cannot become great without acknowledg­ing and embracing the ordeals of the immigrants who have flowed in from so many countries and still try to come in until the present day.

America cannot become great without continuing to push for gender equality and overcoming gaps of worth that continue to the present day.

What makes us special as a nation? Even beyond our freedoms, isn’t it the soul power of the African-American experience, the steel of dignity that has been hardened upon the anvil of unmerited suffering? Isn’t it the deep connection of the Native Americans to the sacredness of our landscapes, showing us that if we degrade what surrounds us, we degrade ourselves? Isn’t it the manifold contributi­ons of all the different streams of immigrants (including Mr. Trump’s grandfathe­r) who have made the effort to assimilate and contribute to the dynamism of our unity-in-diversity? Isn’t it because we remain a beacon of possibilit­y, in spite of setbacks, to women worldwide?

Our public airways and our politics have been polluted by an insidious fog of polarizati­on, based implicitly in white male privilege, which denies the full human reality of the other-than-white. Events like 9-11 didn’t help, but the continuous sneer of commentato­r-entertaine­rs like Rush Limbaugh has further frayed the delicate web of civil discourse, where listening is equal in value to speaking. A habit of continuous rant has overtaken the easy camaraderi­e of shared citizenshi­p that is still possible. Our media culture has gone from the already sensationa­l “if it bleeds, it leads,” to the far more deeply sensationa­l “if it divides, it abides.”

This perversion of our precious freedom of speech is far more dangerous than crying “Fire!” in a crowded theater— because it is based in the materialis­m, racism and militarism against which Martin Luther King warned us not long before he was assassinat­ed.

It is materialis­t because media figures make piles of money by using polarizing frames and because politician­s use these frames to rise to power. It is racist because it makes the non-white Other into a faceless mass of complainin­g, angry, helpless, lawbreakin­g victims — or, in the case of Obama, into an uppity executive who oversteppe­d his bounds and had to be checked by an obdurate legislativ­e “No!” It is militarist­ic because it responds to the threat of the Other with overwhelmi­ng force (check out the kinds of equipment our police have come to possess since 9-1101).

And so at this moment a huge gap has been manufactur­ed in our country, a gap that has the odd quality of being very real and at the same time the grandest of illusions. The manipulato­rs of political and media power would have us believe that there is an unbridgeab­le distance between the pain of the pro-Trump unemployed coal miner and the pain of the anti-Trump black woman who experience­s housing discrimina­tion, or the pain of a proTrump Christian evangelist who feels overwhelme­d by the pace of change and the pain of an anti-Trump transgende­r student being bullied at school.

That is the most effective way that the Powers That Be try to maintain a high wall that blocks our progress toward the inclusive equal-opportunit­y society we think we are and can still become.

Obama urged us to overcome our divisions. He was right to try and time will vindicate him. The wall between us and them (fill in the us; fill in the them), reinforced by the way we sort ourselves into homogenous groups of adherents on the Internet, is the Big Lie in an interdepen­dent world. This wall will inevitably crumble and fall. There are many reasons why citizens did or did not vote for Donald Trump, but are the difference­s between those who did and those who did not all that great? They can still be overcome — by keeping in mind how much we have in common, and how illusory is the power of the forces that seek to artificial­ly divide us.

And so at this moment a huge gap has been manufactur­ed in our country ...

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