While going through some memorabilia, I ran into my US constitution poster. I usually keep the pocket version handy. But this one is the inexpensive replica one with the big calligraphed We the people. That first sentence is the one that I’d like to highlight:
E Pluribus Unum
Union. Unity. Unite. United. All of these words come from the Latin ‘unus’-one. You know it in another form from our Great Seal and our money. E Pluribus Unum-out of the many, one. That was the motto selected in 1776 by John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Our founding fathers declared that unity was to be woven into the fabric of our nation. But somehow, along the way, we’ve fought to keep national reverence of our founding fathers in tact while wholly disregarding their original intent-unity.
How can a house divided stand? On both sides, people are fighting to ‘establish justice’. But what does justice look like? Depending on who you ask, the answer will, of course, be different. So how do we reach common ground? How do we build bridges instead of walls? Here are three thoughts to guide the process of establishing more unity in our communities.
1. We all can’t have our way.
If we realize that our way is just that, our way, we can work on letting others have their way. Everyone around us does not have to believe what we believe, think what we think or even behave the way we do. We keep ourselves and others safest when we stay in our own lane, both on the road and in life. There are enough like-minded souls to commune with without attacking those who are looking to build their own communities.
2. The other guy may be at least partially right.
While we may be convinced that our way is absolutely right, it may not be right for everyone. We can compromise on immigration, abortion, climate action and even what we do about issues of identity and equity. The truth is, there is no absolute solution to any of those problems. For example, murder is a punishable offence, most everyone would agree. However, soldiers kill common enemies, homeowners kill robbers, executioners kill those convicted of crimes and these are all considered justifiable. Absolutes rarely exist without exceptions and we can find common ground when we find and accept those exceptions. Some exceptions may line up with our beliefs, some we may not like so much. Still, compromise is necessary. That works best when we, in humility, acknowledge that we may not be 100% right even 50% of the time.
3. Patriotism involves commitment to democracy.
Democracy and patriotism go hand in hand. Consider that in 2016, many were unwilling to accept the presidential election results because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Since our country’s presidential elections are decided by our electoral college, the popular vote has no bearing. Donald Trump became everyone’s president in 2016, without dispute. Then, in 2020 more than 50 lawsuits trying to prove voter fraud in the last presidential election were dismissed by the courts and Joe Biden became everyone’s president. In a democracy we vote. That means that someone always has to take the loss. That’s how democracy works. Either we accept the rules of democracy or we become something completely incongruent with the ideals set forth in our founding documents.
What can you let go of? What hotly debated topic are you willing to see from someone else’s vantage point? If you personally concede your opinion to someone else, might there be a gain for the greater good? What if we refuse to feel threatened or become irate when our neighbor thinks or opines differently unless it directly affects us?
My guess is, if you reflect over those questions and let go of even one issue that you irately post about online, we could begin to lay a foundation for bridges instead of walls. My ask this week is that you think about what unity and patriotism really mean. If John, Ben and Tom could envision it in a document we still hold dear, let’s consider working toward that more perfect union by using the three thoughts above as a measuring stick for our conversations, posts and actions. Do it as if your children are watching, because they are.