The issue: Our nation, on its birthday, appears as divided as ever.
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What we think: The country’s divisions aren’t as bad as national media would have you think.
God bless America, land that I love…
This week marks the 243rd birthday of our nation. And while we could sit here and spout platitudes about the “greatest nation,” we won’t. Because while we truly love our country and appreciate immensely the myriad freedoms its governing documents provide, we also must be candid: There are plenty of problems facing an America that some people think has been made “Great Again.”
Stand beside her, and guide her…
It’s easy to recognize that we face issues involving race, gender, pay inequality, homelessness, poverty and equitable access to quality education. Daily we see the disparities between the “haves” and “have nots” right here on the Front Range. It only takes a trip across the “tracks” that are South Circle Drive and Fountain Boulevard to see the reality of having to choose between buying fresh food (in the few places it exists in that area) and putting gas in the tank.
And yes, part of the problem is cultural.
We see it in the homogeneity of our community’s power brokers and in their respective politics. Consider these numbers: Of the nine Colorado Springs City Councilors, only two are women and only one, Yolanda Avila, is a person of color. Among the El Paso County commissioners, two of the five are women and one gentleman, Longinos Gonzalez, is a person of color. Of the four school districts located within Colorado Springs proper, only one has a woman at the helm — Harrison School District 2’s Wendy Birhanzel serves as co-superintendent with John Rogerson — and one superintendent, Colorado Springs School District 11’s Michael Thomas, is a person of color.
That’s not exactly reflective of a community that the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 estimates described as 50.1 percent female and 21.8 percent ethnic minority.
Through the night with the light from above…
We are living in a time of extraordinary division — a time in which everything and everyone from social media outlets to those in the highest levels of governmental influence spew hatred, vitriol and acidic language intended to further drive the division.
To be clear, we in the media are not exempt. Whether on TV or radio, be it Fox News, CNN or Limbaugh, it’s easy to find a talking head who will tell you precisely what — and only what — you want to hear.
The simple fact is today’s cultural narrative mandates you choose your party, grab your red or blue jersey in accordance with your side, and huddle tightly to the right or left of the bell-curve — the closer to the fringe, the better. And ne’er shall the dialogue move to the broad middle range.
From the mountains, to the prairies…
But the simple fact is, most people aren’t geared toward one extreme or the other. A massive Pew study of polarization in America, conducted over 20 years and released in 2014, found only about 21 percent of respondents clung tightly to the fringes. Clearly, most of the country is capable of seeing the world in terms other than the black-and-white, us vs. them, red vs. blue, Republican vs. Democrat narrative forced endlessly down our throats.
If the frustration we hear in face-to-face, human-to-human interactions (being members of the media, we still firmly believe in those) is any indication, many of us would reject the Montague vs. Capulet infighting in favor of thoughtful dialogue. After all, our nation was founded as a melting pot, not one of those segregated platters you find at picnics and in cafeteria lines.
To the oceans, white with foam…
So what’s the solution? How about a chat?
Turn off the television, kill the radio, put down the cell phone, disconnect from social media and have a conversation with someone who is not like you. It’s not hard to do.
Fire up the grill, chill some beverages and invite over that neighbor whose skin color/religion/politics/age/gender/sexual orientation/health habits/marital status — whatever the case may be — does not match yours. Then have an open, honest dialogue over burgers and beer. You may just learn something.
Want to actually make America great again? It starts at home, by tearing down culturally mandated walls and building bridges instead.
God bless America, my home sweet home!