America divided

America divided
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Representative Steve Scalise has undergone a third surgery to repair injuries he sustained in the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, two days ago. The hospital reports he is improved but will require additional surgeries. News reports seem to agree he will be in the hospital for a long time to come.

The annual Congressional Baseball Game for charity went on as planned last evening. Both sides wore LSU baseball caps to honor Scalise. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, "tonight we are all on Team Scalise."

Rep. Pelosi has been a lightning rod for the left during her career. Her gracious words of unity need to be written by many and be written often to remind us we are one nation.

Today is the 159th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln warning the nation of a house divided. He delivered the words to the Illinois Republican Party in Springfield who had earlier nominated him as their candidate for the U.S. Senate.

His audience was more than 1,000 delegates. In an ominous tone, Lincoln paraphrased words from the Christian Bible that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The issue dividing the nation was slavery and the practice of chattel ownership of another human being.

We view his prophetic words as noble, and they are noble. At the time, they were not well regarded. The voters of Illinois thought his position was radical and they rejected Mr. Lincoln's bid for office in favor of a more moderate Stephen A. Douglas.

The issues that divide us today, whether we are going to be a nation that takes care of its marginal members, or a nation of fend-for-yourself seems to be at the center of our national debate. It boils down to something even more basic. The national question seems to revolve around are we a nation of “I” or are we a nation of “we”? The answer should be apparent. We need to find the middle ground.

The activists in both major parties will not hear any talk of middle ground. In both parties, it is “my way or the highway.” Both parties are politically dogmatic, doctrinaire, smug, and hateful toward members of other parties. Many carry that to the extreme and if you don't fully adopt their extreme proposals, you are singled out for scorn.

The division and hate are so deep, many people would not consider dating a member of the opposing political party. It seems to me that many people would cross a religious line, and marry someone of an opposing religion than they would marry a member of an opposing political party.

This kind of deep-seated hate is a triumph of the Republican and Democratic Parties, who exploit hate and division to hang onto power. If you are honest about the impact on society of political parties, you will come to the conclusion political parties are immoral and self-serving. They are dangers to our freedom and our democratic traditions.

I came to that conclusion last year. The GOP had its hook set so deeply into me that I helped them divide America with ideology. Ideology is not a road map for good governance. Ideology is a tool of control. When one becomes a slave to anything ending in “ism” you are no longer a free thinking human being. You have become part of the herd. You will vote by rote, and pull the lever for the candidate who says the party buzz words, no matter what kind of reprobate they may be.

My forefathers in Illinois were organizers of the Republican Party. I am only one of the few in my family who has stepped away from the GOP and I stepped away from it because I could no longer support their far-right agenda.

I haven't stepped into the Democratic Party fully because of their far left agenda. I see many of the same dynamics in play. The name calling and mistrust of everything associated with the other side, whether it is warranted or not are now the norms in American political behavior.

As we now close out this week, the events of earlier in the week are a stark reminder of how dangerous extremism can be. Yet, amid it all, for a brief, encouraging moment those who are part of the uncivil political discourse in America came together.

Speaker Paul Ryan said of his Democratic Colleagues upon hearing the news of the shooting, “there is one image in particular that this House should keep. And that is a photo I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after hearing the news.”

Minority Leader Pelosi said, “On days like today, there are no Democrats or Republicans, only Americans united in our hopes and prayers for the wounded.”

Bipartisan civility has taken a hiatus from our political landscape.

Weber/Shandwick in partnership with Powell/Tate and KRC Research conduct an annual survey on civility in America. They first started the survey in 2010. Their findings don't paint a good picture in America. You can read the full survey at this link.

The survey found that:

56% of Americans expect civility will get worse

59% quit paying attention to political conversation because it became uncivil

75% believe lack of civility leads to less political engagement and apathy

75% of those who expect civility to worsen blame politicians for it getting worse

We need to listen less to the talking heads on TV on Fox News and MSNBC whose job it is to divide us. Instead, we need to read more noble words, like the words of Lincoln in his second inaugural address:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds.”

It took another shooting, the assassination of Lincoln, to make the words above a reality. In the wake of that tragedy, the nation pulled together. It's time to pull together again.

By the way, the Democrats defeated the Republicans by a score of 11-2 in the annual baseball game.

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