There is a divide in our country at the moment. Actually, there are many divisions, it would seem. There are those who separate our country by race, some by gender, some by sexual orientation, some by political beliefs, some by religion. The list can go on and on, but all of these come down to a simple concept that has been ingrained in our socialization in this country for years and years: “us” versus “them”.
At the beginning of our country, it was the American colonists against the British Empire, which sought to unfairly exploit them without giving them any real representation in their political systems. During the Mexican-American War in 1845, it was the American people fighting against the unfair and unjust Mexico. Despite the original confrontation taking place on disputed territory, newspapers across the country cried, “American Blood Spilled On American Soil.” With that, President Polk garnered all the support he needed and we embarked on a war with our Southern neighbors that would last less than 2 years and result in our acquisition of the entire American southwest. In 1914, we fought against the Central Powers. In 1945, we entered World War II and were fighting against Hitler and the Nazis. Then it was the Communists. The list goes on and on. The American people always had an enemy to fight.
What we fail to properly acknowledge is when this attitude twists the social constructs of this society. The aforementioned enemies were all foreign, but what happens when someone perceives them to be domestic? The Emancipation Proclamation freed 3 million slaves during the Civil War, and when the war ended it created further hostility between the groups of whites and blacks in the American south. Then at the turn of the century, millions of people from southern and eastern Europe, as well as Ireland, began emigrating to the United States. Despite their skin color, they were also considered “them”. During World War II, Japanese-Americans were imprisoned in internment camps because people worried about their loyalties. During the Communist Era, people were blacklisted, their lives ruined, all because of Joseph McCarthy and his crusade against communists who may infiltrate the United States. During the Civil Rights movement, you had black people fighting for political freedom and people refused to acknowledge the limits society had placed upon them. Why couldn’t they just be happy being free? During the times of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, there was another “them” created. What did housewives have to complain about when they had everything that their mothers before them had not? They had houses and children and were taken care of, so what more could they possibly want? Throughout our history, we have found a way to divide our country into various versions of “us” versus “them”. They say the first step to healing is admitting you have a problem. Well, here it is, America. We have a problem.
The second step? We need to regroup and ask ourselves, “What is the actual difference between us?” The answer: absolutely nothing. We are all made of the same biological structure. There may be stark contrasts between us, but we are all of the same general content. If you walked into a library and you were looking for a book on historical fiction and the librarian handed you a romance novel, you may not like it, but you wouldn’t start screaming about how it’s not a book. The book didn’t choose it’s cover, or it’s contents, but it’s still a book. We need to acknowledge the fact that the world is a remarkable and mysterious place, and if we all come together as a team rather than an innumerable faction of teams within one political boundary, we may just fix the divisive society we have so recklessly created.
So, next time you look down on someone else, I want you to think about their content. What makes them who they are? Have a conversation. Show some interest. Care. Maybe you won’t like what you find out. We cannot have an immeasurable love for all books, but we should at least try to read them. I know I had no great enjoyment over Ethan Frome, but I read it all the same.
The point is, we need to actively take a stand against this division that has been created and has been slowly growing to an incredibly terrifying boiling point. We need to step up and stand together, because if we choose to stick to these divisions, we will not make it. America will never be great again unless we can ignore the hateful rhetoric and choose to write our own story. So the question is, are you a writer or a fighter?