American Unity and not being a sucker

Don't be a Sucker (1947)

Someone recommended that I watch this video today. I did so, and it brought up a lot of feelings. I’ve ruminated on the video for a while, and collected my thoughts here. Watch the video yourself without letting me color it for you, then feel free to read on if you like.

The overall message of the video, which I would say is that America’s greatest asset is our ability to to work together, despite physical differences, differences of opinion (including political views), and different backgrounds, is something I view as a true American ideal. It’s something we have often failed to live up to - this video came out in 1947, right before the start of the Cold War, when we became terrified of Communism, Communists, and the Russians.

American unity is missing from both major political party platforms. Somehow, being a Republican or a Democrat has become more important than being an American. Both parties have actively participated in fragmenting us as a nation - for proof, one must look no further than the “All conservatives are racists” mentality of many Democrats, or the “Liberals hate America” rhetoric of the Republicans. I’m sure you can think of other blanket statements like this.

This isn’t helped by the current political climate, wherein people are willing to take one single issue, and make all their voting choices based on their perception of it. Abortion is one such issue. 2nd Amendment rights are another. I’m sure you can think of others in this situation as well.

This razor-focus on specific, divisive topics seems intentionally designed to stop Americans from working together. When in the past, we’ve been able to work together to make America better, now we refuse to even consider working with someone who “wants to take my guns away!” or “wants to make it easier for murderers to buy guns!”

It occurs to me that both the liberals and the conservatives are being played for suckers in this case.

Instead, we should stop and consider. Before jumping on the bandwagon of a particular political party, we should consider if the positions presented don’t represent a false dichotomy. In the case of 2nd Amendment rights, it seems pretty straightforward. Gun control advocates don’t really care about your guns at the core of it. They are concerned about American citizens dying from gun-inflicted injuries. Despite me being a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I can see their point - any time my fellow American citizens are killed, that should be cause for concern.

We have gun control advocates trumpeting poorly-considered legislation that doesn’t seem to actually address any of the causes of American gun violence. Right-wing gun owners decry any attempt, no matter how reasonable, to restrict access to guns as “gun-hating liberals,” “trying to take my guns,” “scared of guns,” and so on.

But maybe there’s something we could work together on that we haven’t thought of yet, something that could save our fellow American’s lives, without making it difficult for law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms in a responsible manner.

At the current rate, we won’t know. We’ve all been played for suckers, to keep us voting for that (R) or (D), and the things that really matter have been forgotten.

In so many cases, we’ve been suckered into shouting party-line bumper sticker phrases at each other instead of banding together to fix the problems.

Of course, there are things that you might find you can’t accept. As an example, I feel very strongly that all people are equal, and deserve equal protection under law. This includes people of all colors, genders, sexual orientations, and backgrounds. If someone doesn’t think that a group of people deserves equality, then I’m likely not going to be able to have a productive relationship with that person.

(Philosopher Karl Popper defined the “Paradox of Tolerance” as early as 1945 - the idea that in order to be tolerant of the greatest possible number of people, you cannot tolerate those who are intolerant.)

I guess my takeaway is that, while we’ve often failed to reach it, the American ideal of a truly cohesive society is a goal worth fighting toward. While my expectations aren’t high that others will be willing to reciprocate, I do want to do my best in promoting American unity when possible.

As the video says, when somebody tries to divide us, somebody is going to get something out of it, and it isn’t going to be you.