The alt-right and the progressive left. Those two groups dominate the current political landscape and have become the new compass with which we navigate through society. It not only governs our choices within the voting booth, but it pervades our daily decisions and conversations as well. Whether we realize it or not, our adherence to either group (our political ID) dictates which news sources we consume, and how we communicate with our peers. Everything is viewed through red or blue lenses. Flags are immediately planted, and ground is quickly staked based on the dictates of either worldview.
Substance is exchanged for soundbites. Arguments are based on party loyalty instead of merit. It is liberals versus conservatives. Victory delineates the moral high ground – which means the loser cedes theirs. That is a toxic way to conduct the political process. Left versus right, right versus wrong. Either way, temporary success gives way to ultimate failure. If only one “side” wins, ultimately everyone loses. There is only one solution: color blending. The only colors that should be of concern are red, white, and blue, collectively, not individually. Aside from that, purple is the goal.
In his inauguration speech, President John F. Kennedy succinctly encapsulated these sentiments. Although he was speaking about global armaments, the advice seamlessly applies to our political polarization as well. He said, “So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”
Compromise is not a four-letter word, literally or figuratively. We are all on the same team; our goals should be the same – the success of our America. Our routes may differ, but either way, the steps toward reaching any destination are not solidly red or blue. The true road to success is paved in purple. Yes, the Democrat and Republican Parties have achieved respective victories. But compare them to a time when hyper-partisanship did not dominate the political landscape. We were not without our disagreements, but decorum and mutual respect were plentiful, and that propelled us to incredible heights. Think of how much more successful we can be in today’s society, if we work TOGETHER for US, not just us singular, but for us plural – the United States – as well.
Together, Americans have achieved the impossible. We created a government from scratch, our constitution written in the blood of those who believed in the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Together, we abolished slavery. Together, we won two World Wars. Together, we were the first to put a man on the moon. And on September 11th, in the shadow of the smoldering Twin Towers, stood many brave individuals, who sacrificed their safety for that of their fellow man.
And since then, many more brave Americans have fought tirelessly for our precious freedom overseas. We are what makes this country special. Our unique gifts and talents; our drive and determination; and our ability to work together for the common good. We are united not by our similarities, but by our belief in the values enshrined in our Constitution. Those values that celebrate and encourage uniqueness, recognizing it as underpinning the fabric of our nation.
Make no mistake: democracy is messy. It asks a lot of us. In the movie “The American President,” President Shepard says it best, “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.'”
But that very frustration is also our greatest asset – one that we have not been playing to our advantage. Our Founding Fathers created this form of government for a reason. The glacial, inefficient cogs and wheels of our republic are there by design. The Founders knew that the slow pace created ample opportunities for discussion, communication and compromise. At the end of such an arduous process would be a carefully crafted policy, comprised of threads of the ideas from across the political spectrum; a tapestry of the American people. Thus, the bill would represent – and benefit – the maximum amount of citizens. They knew firsthand that speed breeds dictatorship and snuffs out liberty. The quicker the pace, the less opportunity there is for deliberation.
The reason why our Founding Fathers came here in the first place was because of that very reason: their views were not valued; they were not welcome. They did not matter to those in power. So our Founders had the audacity to recognize our inalienable rights – and fight for them. They literally put their lives on the line for what was, at the time, a grand idea. Together, they made it a reality.
Throughout history, so many great men and women have been willing to make that same sacrifice for the sake of those same ideals: Valley Forge; Gettysburg; The Second Battle of the Marne; D Day; Operation Enduring Freedom. Everything; all of it was for us. We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to honor that which they fought so hard to preserve. We can do so by listening. Understanding. Communicating. Respecting. Engaging. Liberty is not a slogan. It is a commitment. One signed for us in blood by those who came before us.
In Senator Chuck Schumer’s speech at President Trump’s inauguration, he spoke about Maj.
Sullivan Ballou, of the 2nd Rhode Island volunteers, and his letter to his wife, Sarah. It was written on July 14, 1861, as the North and South met to decide the fate of slavery in our country. His words should serve as an inspiration for us today. He said, “My very dear Sarah, the indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days, perhaps tomorrow. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.
I know how strongly American civilization now leans upon the triumph of the government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am willing, perfectly willing, to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this government and to pay that debt…Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me to you with a mighty cables that nothing but omnipotence can break; and yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.” Maj. Ballou joined the fraternity of brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country just one week later at the First Battle of Bull Run.
Let us not forget those sentiments. Let us forego the practice of strident opposition, and reinvigorate our commitment to each other, and this country, by choosing instead to work together. Let’s focus on our commonalities, rather than our divisions. Together, let’s celebrate our common goals and work together to achieve them, instead of working separately to defeat each other. The purpose of the Democrat Party should not be to nullify the goals and achievements of those who are Republicans. It should also not cater solely to the most progressive of policies. And the purpose of the Republican Party should not be to negate the ambitions and accomplishments of those who are Democrats. It should not attempt to fulfill only the most conservative ideals. The key to our nation’s success lies in the middle. Moderation is our catalyst.
Let’s get together and solve the problems before us. Let’s give a little to gain a lot. Compromise will give way to unbridled success. From the grassroots to the halls of Congress, let’s blend our red and blue ideas and create a purple masterpiece. Let’s make purple just as patriotic a color as red, white and blue. Let’s put country before party. We can do this together, for US.