“We are not enemies, but friends.”

By Story of America Team

Let’s remember that it’s okay if we disagree. We are not meant to create uniformity in America. Diversity makes us strong.

LINCOLN1.jpgWe do, however, need a process that is truly representative of We the People so that we feel that our voices have been heard. That process is failing us and many Americans from all sides are feeling strangled and fed up. That process must include not only transparency, fair and clean elections, it must include opportunities for the public to be part of the deliberation. 
Tragically, we keep going to war with each other over specific policies and we leave the battlefields wounded and bitterly angry with each other. This prevents us from uniting as We the People to restore self-governance.

How about if we focused on improving the representative process? Most people don’t feel represented given our current process. 

We must learn from the lessons of the past. As Lincoln implored us to do in 1861 in his Inaugural Address, we must be friends, not enemies. 

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

We must call on the better angels of our nature and insist on reason, civility, tolerance, compassion and democracy. We must recognize and value each other as We the People. If we are fractured and don’t value each other, our governments and corporations will feel no pressure to value us.

How do we do that? We need to talk to each other. We can’t have a functioning democracy if we hate each other, at war with each other and refuse to talk to each other.

We need a process in which deliberation and dialogue are integrated. Dialogue is not the only part of our democratic process, but it is a vital one. It should not be diminished as “mere talk.” Consider why free speech is the first amendment.

I know some people out there think “talk is cheap” and believe that talk is not action. I beg to differ. So much of what we do in the political arena comes down to communication.

Let’s take North Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement. The participants are trying to communicate to fellow North Carolinians. Civil disobedience and arrests lead to news reports which get people talking about why people have been arrested. The public awareness turns into political pressure on lawmakers.

Let’s also break down how dialogue can help us counter the “money in politics” problem. Big money doesn’t automatically turn into electoral outcomes. Money is used to buy ads (communication and media products) which have a powerful influence (unfortunately) on how people talk, think, act and vote.

The national dialogue is currently unhealthy, destructive, full of misinformation, unsafe and controlled by a few people who own corporate mainstream media. Imagine if we can call for regular in-person community meetings and virtual meetups in which We the People can inform each other and think together. Imagine: We the People would not be at the mercy of what is reported in mainstream media.

Dialogue also does not preclude organizing a particular group of people to engage and vote. Please, let’s not create false choices and insist that we can’t have dialogue because we should be organizing voter turnout for a party or candidate. It is not an either-or. We can surely do both. 

Real change will begin when we begin talking to each other as We the People and see that we are not each other’s enemies. The people with their hands on the levers are behind the curtain hidden from view making decisions that impact us without accountability. 

We are imprisoned by our inability to see beyond the shadows on the cave wall.