To Bind Up The Nation’s Wounds

We must first presume goodwill

Too many, Democrats and Republicans alike, have lost their way. I am heartbroken to see so many of my fellow Americans succumb to hateful speech and violent action.

There have always been and there will always be radical groups like the Klu Klux Klan and the Weather Underground, but I am truly shaken by the direction I have seen my friends venturing.

Otherwise reasonable Americans have turned radical, reinforced by the echo chambers of the Huff Posts and Fox News’ of the world and living in their respective bubbles, they have completely dehumanized the other. I hear fellow Catholics who joyfully break bread with their Mexican-American brothers and sisters at Mass express equal joy at the prospect of mass deportations. I hear my friends who so fervently advocate for peace and justice smugly discuss violence, treason, rebellion and the end of democracy.

I wish that compromise was possible. I have been a staunch moderate for some time now, but even I recognize the chasm between liberals and conservatives may have grown too wide. But, I hold out hope that while we may not be able to immediately reconcile our differences, we can reboot our national dialogue before the country is torn apart.

It will not be easy, but it starts with one step, so I call on you to endeavor to do this one thing and one thing alone. It will not require that you give up the fight for what you believe in, it will not require you to abandon your values, it will not even require you to compromise, but it will be hard.

We, together as Americans, must re-embrace the presumption of goodwill.

The presumption of goodwill is incredibly difficult. When you look at the other side and all you see are disastrous and immoral policies, it will be hard to assume they have good intentions. But you must, we must, we must because the moment we start believing that the other side does not have America’s best interests at heart is the moment we see them as the enemy. Despite what the pundits shout, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats set out to destroy America.

I implore you to recognize that the vast majority of Americans on both the left and right share a similar sense of duty and good will towards their country. Our politics may differ based on our beliefs, but I firmly believe we share the underlying hope of great success for our nation.

The hardest part of all is that if, after throwing aside all the policies and rhetoric, you still distrust their motives, you must still presume goodwill. Somewhere in the recent past we lost this critical piece of American political dialogue. Republicans have always disliked Democratic President’s policies and Democrats have always disliked Republican President’s policies, but for the most part, neither side ever actually thought the other was trying to destroy America.

That presumption of good will began to disappear with President Obama, and I fear it has completely evaporated with President-elect Trump.

This must change. This begins with you.

If you voted for Sec. Clinton, grieve, but do not despair. If you voted for President-Elect Trump, celebrate, but do not boast. Get back to work, continue your vigorous debates on policy and law, tirelessly work to improve the lot of your fellow American, but never ever forget, before we are R’s or D’s or anything else, we are Americans. We may vehemently disagree, but we must never forget we all our Americans.

We are a uniquely privileged generation of Americans who, if we set our hearts to it, can push through this time of division without the same heartache and destruction as in the past. Let us not forget the tremendous sacrifice and burden our forefathers have born at various other times of intense division in our country.

“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, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Like what you read? Give Matthew Shinseki a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.