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Divided We Stand, United not so much…

July 2, 2017

divided_states_of_america_tshirt“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The above quote is one we are all familiar with, it is part of the foundation upon which this nation was built. Setting aside the gender bias, it is meant to remind us all that no one of us is better or less than another. Part of the naming of this country included the word united, as in The United States of America. The question must then be asked, why are we doing so much to divide us?

America was built by people from all parts of the world. Germans, Irish, English, Chinese, Dutch, French, African (although not willingly), and Italian, just to name a few. Once here, and settled, all these nationalities became American. They did not give up their heritage but blended it with those around them and embraced this unique identity. Were there cultural clashes, bigotry, racism, divisions? Yes, but for the most part this country became a melting pot and an example of what a free society could be.

Today there are so many forces trying to divide us, to pit us against one another, it seems we are destined to fall apart. Whether it is political, religious, skin color, or economic, there is no end to reasons we can’t use to separate ourselves from each other. One that puzzles me came up in a news story about a woman registering her children for school.

The parent was asked not only to classify her child as Asian, but as to which Asian: Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Samoan, or one of nine other choices. She responded by saying her children were born in the United States and are American. The school said that according to Assembly Bill 1088, government code 8310.5, the school is required to ask. The funny thing is that only Asians are subdivided. Under white, it does not ask German, Irish, English, Italian, etc.

While the reasoning for always having to classify ourselves on forms, government or otherwise, may be sound and of value, just doing so keeps us in a divisive mentality. Once an individual becomes a citizen, either natural-born or otherwise, they are an American. When we lose sight of this fact, it is then division begins.

As Americans we can be Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, pro or anti abortion, pro or anti firearms, climate change deniers or believers, but no one is better than the other. The moment we use any category to claim superiority, we divide.

The current political climate seems hell bent on dividing us, inflamed rhetoric on both sides fuels the differences between us and tries to erase the fact that we are all Americans. It is too easy to fall into the trap of believing one group has the answers and another the cause of our problems. Rational discussion has become nearly impossible as both sides shout to be heard over the other. It reminds me of the Buffalo Springfield song, For What It Is Worth, where it says, “There’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

So as the Fourth of July comes upon us, maybe this is a good time to reflect on who we are as a nation. We may have originally come from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, or some other part of the world, but as citizens we are all American. As Aesop said in the fable of The Four Oxen and The Lion, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

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