What of our differences? If we are to envision the future of the United States, this is no small concern. The diversity of views and perspectives that divide the American people in the early years of the 21st century are unquestionably the deepest that have existed since the Civil War.
Our differences views today are based on many things: economic disparities, personal experience and influences, ethical and religious values, our understanding of history, and our perceptions of some very profound problems facing the world.
The vitality of the American Republic has always been rooted in the dynamic fertile engagement of differing ideas and often intense debates that reflect a wide range of views.
Our opinions, values, perceptions all deserve respect; yet we disagree vehemently on matters of fundamental importance. We each have valid reasons for holding our views. This is the way it is supposed to be in a healthy civil society.
Yes, and this begs questions that must be addressed: How can we find a way to live and work with one another? How can we address imposing challenges that are inevitably causing deep pain? Are we prepared to accept significant differences while uniting in the defense of the nation, of secure communities and a stable society?
To be clear, is the fundamental security of the communities and regions we live in important enough to us that we are willing to build and strengthen the civil order by working with our neighbors – many of whom we have substantial differences with? Are we prepared to struggle for this country shoulder-to-shoulder with one another, indeed to be truly loyal to one another as Americans?
And, what is it really that makes this a cause worth fighting for?
We will not minimize our differences here. That’s a promise! But, we must learn to listen well to one another’s views, perspectives, core beliefs—our real differences, and to truly hear and understand one another. And then to move forward determinedly all the while, securing and building the nation.
It is neither practical nor civilized to go to war with one another when our common interests depend upon our ability to listen, when we need to share what we have learned and engage in rational problem-solving.
We will not come to agreement on many of our most basic differences; but we are living in unique times when we and others may be more ready to listen and comprehend what we could not before. What is essential is not that we agree, but that we join with one another to restore the integrity of a civil society that allows for constructive cooperation, engaging with one another respectfully, so that we can secure the safety and productivity of our communities.
Those among us who foster antagonism or propose sedition will only weaken the cause and discredit their own position. The nation must be built with clear vision from the foundations we know and not damaged further by the forces of disintegration.
However complex the problems we face, in the final analysis we are confronted by a single simple question. Will we accept the destruction of civilized society, a rending of the very fabric of the Republic, and retreat into a state of siege? Or, will we stand bravely together in the face of our shared loss, keeping our focus fixed on the goal of a dynamic, multifaceted, and productive future?
Shall we allow ourselves to be dragged down by the failures of the past, or shall we re-engage in the process of building a principled and prosperous nation.