In the wake of the storming of the U.S. Capitol, the nation’s institutional crisis rages. Americans across the political spectrum feel anxiety and disbelief at seeing U.S. politics in utter disarray. Amid all the political finger-pointing and posturing, our nation remains deeply divided.
What can we, as average citizens, do to heal this division? How do we start seeing ourselves as Americans first and partisan adherents second? How do we begin to put country before party?
I don’t know the answer. Nor am I sure that anyone possesses a single strategy that can reverse the chaos and disruption we see today. I do know, however, that nearly half the nation does not think as I do. That’s true for almost everyone today, as we have gravitated toward our political differences rather than seeking our common ground.
We have the power to change this dynamic. I cling to the belief that the vast majority of Americans condemn the violence and mayhem that we witnessed at the Capitol. I hold on to the opinion that the vast majority of Americans are not extremists. I believe Americans still value democracy, justice and equal opportunity.
The ability to heal our nation lies in all of us — mainly in our willingness to speak openly to one another. We need to genuinely listen — and actually hear — different points of view. Until we do, we won’t be able to understand one another’s struggles and aspirations.
Americans of all backgrounds have diverse issues, opinions and needs. This is true of the third-generation coal miner seeing his livelihood disappear; the young Black teenager who yearns for personal safety; the faith-based proponent who believes in protecting the unborn; or the advocate who fights for immigrants’ rights. Our nation’s future lies in listening closely to the differing sides of such critical issues.
Our veterans fought for a place in society that would offer them equal opportunity and full participation in the American way of life. They served our nation and its democratic principles, despite the rampant prejudice they faced during and after the war. Their example reminds us that it is our collective character, and not our politics, that will lift our nation to its fullest expression.
We can start by restoring some civility and decorum to everyday conversations. We can take a small step by seeking out and listening to perspectives that are different from our own. The healing of our nation will come from average Americans realizing we have more in our commonalities than in our differences.
Our healing will emerge not from continuing with sticks and stones, but by opening our eyes, ears, and hearts. Together, we can still strive for a more perfect union.
Mitchell Maki is president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Go For Broke National Education Center. Opinions expressed in Vox Populi are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.