One wonders if we are ever going to come together as a nation. Apart from joining together when America faces a common foreign aggressor, those moments of internal domestic harmony have been less …
One wonders if we are ever going to come together as a nation. Apart from joining together when America faces a common foreign aggressor, those moments of internal domestic harmony have been less common than you might imagine.
I just watched Ken Burns’ latest work about Ben Franklin and here’s an old news flash: We Americans have been battling each other forever. Our nation’s birth was a battle: there were colonists who wanted to break free of Great Britain and those who did not. Patriots vs. Loyalists. In fact, Benjamin Franklin’s son William, who served as the last royal governor of New Jersey, remained a Loyalist to his death and he and Ben never reconciled.
The American Revolution did pit families against each other. And when it finally ended in 1783, America still had unresolved issues which would lead to the Civil War in 1861, fewer than 80 years later. Again, American families found themselves on opposing sides.
The Civil War ended and the enslaved were emancipated, but our nation still struggled and struggles to ensure that all are given equal rights under the law. One need look no further than the struggle for fair and equal access to the ballot box.
To this day, states are working to “legally” deny or discourage voting by all citizens by closing polling places in certain neighborhoods and limiting voting times. It is seen as a states’ rights issue, and that has been a source of conflict since the founding of our country—determining what rights are the purview of the states and what rights are rightly overseen by our federal government.
The challenge occurs, of course, when one group of Americans becomes convinced that their way of living is being threatened by other Americans and seeks to stop it by any means necessary. That radical way of thinking brings us days of ignominy like January 6.
A deeper dive into the history of our country reveals that we have had many conflicts, both big and small, throughout the years. ‘Twas ever thus, as my grandmother would say.
These days are no different. Ours is a huge country with a widely diverse population. We are not going to agree on everything, but all sides must abide by the rules of civility. We must remind ourselves how to disagree without being disagreeable, for, ultimately, we are only hurting ourselves.
Lincoln himself, on the cusp of the Civil War, said in his Lyceum Address of 1838, “As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
Elizabeth Willing Powel, a notable Patriot in a prominent Philadelphia family, famously asked Benjamin Franklin, “What do we have, republic or a monarchy?” His immortal response: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Let us all endeavor to do so.
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