With your permission, I’d like to point out a few basic truths…
Truth #1: United we stand. Divided we fall.
Throughout our history, various Americans—including one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln—have reminded us of a basic fact: “united we stand, divided we fall.”
Well friends, we’re there.
We’re divided, and it’s not just politics. We’re divided by race, religion, gender, class, geography, and probably a lot of other things I’m not smart enough to think of right now. And in the naming those differences, by focusing on them ad nausea, we’ve made them real.
We’re no longer Americans. We’re rural white Trump supporters. Coastal liberal elites. Inner city blacks. Migrant Hispanics. LGBTQ. Muslims, Asians, millennials, baby boomers, the elderly, the 99%.
Then depending on the category, we pick our political team. Gun owners, Evangelical Christians, men, rural white people and the elderly tend to be Republican. Non-whites, women, religious minorities and city dwellers tend to be Democrats. We rarely talk to each other, and if we’re honest, we often assume the worst about the people we know the least.
Because they’re on the other team.
We’re divided, and if it stays this way, we will fall. Because a divided nation cannot solve problems—like defeating fascism in World War II—nor can it accomplish great achievements—like sending a man to the moon or building the interstate highway system.
No, the truth is, if we remain this divided, we will fall. It’s inevitable.
Truth #2: Telling people they’re wrong and yelling at them will not bridge this divide. In fact, it makes it much, much worse.
And I’ll be honest: I’ve been guilty of too much of that stuff in the past—arguably, one of the worst. I’ve yelled at people online, called them all manner of names, gotten into silly arguments, and if you were one of the people on the other end I hope you can forgive me.
But I’m not the only one.
No, let’s face it: our culture is mean. Our social discourse, the way we treat each other, the assumptions we make about people—it’s aggressive and abrasive. Hell, it borders on abusive. Again, I know this because I’ve participated in it. We all have at one time or another.
But it has to stop. I don’t mean we all have to become hippie Buddhists or that we can never have honest disagreements, but we need to recognize four things when we interact with each other:
1) We’re all human beings. We’re all beautifully talented, flawed, and unique; fragile and strong, humble and proud, but all of us, at the end of the day, are human. And in that sense, no one is better than anyone else. The bum under the bridge is just as human as the rich CEO jet-setting to from New York to LA—and that’s something we’ve forgotten.
2) We’re all Americans. And like being human, no one living in this country has a greater claim to that than anyone else. Sure, we can get into the weeds or quibble about immigrants, green cards, country of origin, etc., but aside from native Americans, we were all immigrants (or for African Americans, unwilling captives) at one point and we’re here now. To me, it’s very simple: if you think of yourself as an American, then you are one. And how we got here doesn’t matter.
3) The vast majority of us are doing the best we can. That’s going to look a lot different depending on where we grew up, how we were raised, and how much money we’ve got, but most of us are just trying to make enough money to survive and enjoy our lives—to reach for that basic American ideal Jefferson set out so long ago: the pursuit of happiness. The fact is if we sat down across the table from each other for coffee, a drink, or a meal, most of us are pretty nice, decent, humble, hardworking people.
4) Most of what we perceive as malice is simply a result of ignorance, stubbornness, or a lack of attention. Yes, there are bad people out there who try to do bad things—but they’re the exception, not the rule.
Truth #3: Our government is for sale.
That’s the root of our problems. For all intents and purposes, we have a political system that allows for legalized bribery. I’ll put it bluntly: corporations and wealthy donors matter more than ordinary people like you and me. They just do. And until we start electing politicians who are willing to do something about money in politics, our government will work for the rich and powerful rather than the rest of us.
Truth #4: We deserve this.
I know that’s tough to swallow, but we do. We deserve the government we have. After all, we voted these people in, and in district after district—despite how much we all love to say we want change and are pissed off about politics—we elect the incumbent, the guy who’s been in office for 30 years.
Beyond that, too few of us vote and too many of us vote without doing any research on the candidates or issues, opting for party allegiance rather than a thoughtful consideration of the issues.
Even worse, we don’t listen to what the other side is saying. Instead we say “fake news” and disregard or dismiss everything we don’t like or disagree with. That’s wrong, and deep down we know it, but until we gather up the collective courage to make smarter, more thoughtful political decisions, this is the government we deserve.
And here’s were I have to get partisan.
Truth #5: The Republican Party has become an almost wholly corrupt and anti-democratic institution.
Please understand, I’m not making a value judgment about conservatism. If you want to own guns, have lower taxes and a smaller government, believe in states’ rights, preserve religious freedoms, etc., that’s fine. In fact, I believe we need people who have those beliefs when we decide how to govern ourselves; when we decide how to solve problems and enable opportunities for our citizens.
But the Republican Party doesn’t want to solve problems or enable opportunity. They want power and riches for the rich and powerful. They want to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted. And they don’t give a damn about any of the rest of us–including the people who vote for them.
Don’t believe me? Look at the latest healthcare bill: it’s basically Obamacare, gutted. Millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, and those of use who keep it will pay higher premiums for worse insurance—insurance with lifetime limits, unavailable to people with pre-existing conditions, and exceptions for coverage on major health problems like cancer and heart disease.
And why? Why are Republicans trying to pass such a bill? So the richest 400 or so Americans can get a $600 billion tax cut.
Which why they’ll almost certainly pass something awful along those lines.
Because that’s how the Republican Party works—they do what rich people and big corporations want. And if you still don’t believe me, ask yourself this question: when was the last time the Republican Party passed legislation whose primary aim was to make life better for ordinary Americans? Can you name even one thing in the last 20-30 years? I can’t, and I’ve been asking that question for years now.
Now look, you can go ahead and say, oh this guy’s biased, “fake news”, whatever—but I’m not wrong. As long as this version of the Republican Party is in power, things are going to get worse.
That’s not my opinion. It’s a fact. Just wait and see.
So if you’re living in a red state, go ahead and keep it up—keep watching Fox News and listening to people screaming on the radio about how awful liberals are and inventing conspiracy theories when you find the truth doesn’t conform to what you want it to be.
But don’t expect things to get better. As long as this Republican Party is in power, they won’t.
Truth #6: The Democratic Party is compromised milk-toast.
They aren’t bold enough to challenge Republicans effectively because they’re beholden to that same system of money in politics. The difference is that Democrats want to compromise between the big money interests and what’s best for ordinary people, and their solutions are band-aids.
Food Stamps keep people from starving, but they don’t help them get ahead or earn more money. It’s the same with section eight housing, rent assistance, and all kinds of other welfare programs. Band-aids. Because Democrats aren’t bold enough to address what causes the wounds.
Hell, even Obamacare was a band aid.
Did it do a lot of good? Absolutely. Millions of Americans got access to healthcare and the rest of us got better insurance, paid for by raising taxes on the richest people in the country.
But Obamacare didn’t fix the underlying problems of our healthcare system. Hospital prices are still ridiculous. Insurance too often incentivizes waste and unnecessary procedures. Pharmaceutical prices are much higher than they are everywhere else in the world. Premiums are completely ridiculous, and rising. And in some markets, there’s only one insurer in the marketplace.
So yeah, Obamacare made things better, but our healthcare system is still a complete mess. And that’s because it’s a bandaid, which seems to be about all Democrats in Washington are willing to fight for.
Truth #7: Until we, as individual Americans, and as communities, get our act together, nothing is going to change.
And inevitably, something ranging from bad to catastrophic is going to happen. That’s not a what if—it’s a when. It’s a how soon? We’re on the Titanic and it’s going to hit an iceberg.
Yet, the vast majority of us are doing nothing. We go on with our lives and pretend it doesn’t matter or tune it out or throw up our hands in disgust… but that’s not going to cut it. The ship is going down. Shouldn’t we do something about it?
So what I’m asking is that we grow up and face this challenge. As Americans, there’s no problem we can’t solve if we work together and are willing to make some sacrifices on the way.
But if we keep up this “me-first” selfish, arrogant, pig-headed, stubborn nonsense, that’s not going to happen.
One way we can start is by writing honest letters like this one, titled: dear America.
Send them to me here at chuckingrocks.com. I’ll pick one a week and publish it (perhaps after some polishing and editing—but I promise I won’t change your content, even if I disagree)—and then I’ll seek that person out for a conversation which I’ll post as a podcast, again with the title: Dear America.
No journalists, pundits, politicians, celebrities, or all the usual people we hear from–just ordinary Americans. I don’t care where you’re from, what you believe, what color your skin is, what God(s) you do or don’t worship, how rich or poor you are–I just want to hear from regular people and what they think about politics.
I want to hear from you!
Teacher, Writer, American
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include a phone number if you want to be on the podcast. This is just the beginning, so be patient if you don’t hear from me right away. Also, please support our mission here at chuckingrocks.com by making a donation (the button is above), buying my debut novel Cherry City Pulp (it’s awesome), or simply sharing this or other posts on social media. Thank you so much for your support! And, as always, cheers!