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Finding Common Ground

December 1, 2016

Our nation is currently going through an apparent crisis of division with Americans split into two diametrically opposed camps. Each group has seemly backed itself into a corner shouting, “my way or the highway,” as they refuse to listen to what’s being shouted back.

Unfortunately, this has happened before. The national discords that spawned our Civil Rights confrontations and the Vietnam war protests come to mind. In the past these divisions ended up involving the application of some form of coercive force as opposed to reason to resolve them. As we go forward we need to ensure that today’s split doesn’t escalate into something that requires similar drastic measures.

The best way to do so is to remind ourselves of the common ground we all share. First and foremost that ground is defined by our shared love of America and our democracy. It is also shared by our innate tendency to try and help our neighbors when they are in distress be they down the block or across the nation. We all want what is best for our country. We just seem to have lost the ability to agree on what that is.

Having just celebrated Thanksgiving, a purely American ritual, we need to heed the words of columnist Leonard Pitts who recently reminded us that Thanksgiving is not a day but a word, a concept we should live by day in and day out – as individuals, groups and a nation.

And we have so much to be thankful for – our freedom, our right to disagree without being disagreeable; opportunities to find common ground through compromise and mutual charity if we will only stop shouting and sit down to listen to one another in order to work out our differences.

We also have to remind ourselves that neither of today’s groups can dictate outcomes that will last or finally resolve the issues each focuses on unless we get the other – whoever the other is – to buy into solutions that are mutually beneficial. Those solutions will only emerge if we engage in dialogue and compromise instead of shouting matches and chest thumping.

We need to approach each other with a spirit of gratitude that we are all blessed to be Americans and have the privilege – for I believe it is a privilege – to be living in this great land.

While it would seem that one man can temporarily divide us, no one person can heal those divides. We must do that ourselves. Together we have to find ways to move forward reunited into our nation’s future. “We the People” is more than just a phrase and we the people are the ones who must find and share our common ground.