Imagine two close friends on a month-long hike in the backcountry together. What started out as an exciting adventure later turned into a backpacker's nightmare. After nearly three weeks of constant rain, muddy trails, and relentless mosquitos the harsh conditions take a toll on their frazzled nerves leaving them both annoyed with the other. In their frustration they choose to put some distance between themselves; hiking apart rather than together. Near the end of their journey, both arrive at a raging river they must cross to get to their destination. They can see each other from where they stand, but not close enough to talk without yelling at the top of their lungs above the deep roar of rushing water. Alone, and against their better judgment, the two wade into the water at separate points along the river's edge. A few feet from shore both hikers are swept down river in the overpowering current. As both scramble for their footing only a few feet apart from one another their eyes meet in the awful realization they may have saved each other had they only chosen to wade into the flow together. They could have helped each other had they agreed to work together across the divide. Unfortunately, the distance between them was just far enough they couldn’t grab the other's hand to help keep him from drowning. Both are lost.
I, like most Americans, have been watching what is going on in our nation with great interest around this polarizing election season. More from a social perspective than a political one. Like most citizens, I am growing wearing of the partisan paralysis that grips our nation. It holds us hostage from enjoying the gracious unity needed for any substantial progress toward what is best for all Americans. Like you, I too have grown weary of the abuse of protest to destroy and disrupt rather than dialogue and discuss. Calling each other names, obstructing process, or belittling passions are certainly not going to get us anywhere.
I think I’ve come to the conclusion that what’s best for America falls somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum. The Right doesn’t have it all figured out, nor does the Left. The Right isn't completely correct. Nor is the Left. What I do know is the Far Right and the Far Left are both dead wrong! Extremists on either side aren’t getting us anywhere other than further apart.
Unfortunately, neither side seems interested in working together around the wisdom to be found in the middle. Partisanship is going to be the death of America if both sides can’t be big enough to admit they need a little of what the other has to offer. Our country is currently divided with the extremists doing most of the talking for us.
I don’t think for a moment all Democrats are the types to destroy property and abuse opponents. Neither do I think all Republicans wish to malign and ignore the hopes of the other side. Or vise-versa. So what do you say those of us with the maturity and wisdom to act responsibly - regardless of our political differences - reach across the divide and ask what we can learn from each other about what would make our nation better for everybody. Just because we see things differently doesn’t mean we can’t find mutually agreeable solutions for how best to live with one another.
Simply digging our heels in deeper only makes the divide wider. I fear there may come a point where we can no longer reach back across the social chasm to keep each other from slipping into the abyss of our own arrogant stubbornness. We endured one Civil War, but by no means does that guarantees we can survive another. There are far too many global threats that would love to take advantage of such a national fracture between us.
It’s time we chose to wade into this river together or risk losing it all. To remember we are friends, not foes. Let's shake off this national nightmare and get back to the exciting adventure of what it means to be Americans.