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Your Turn: The Divided States of America

by Countable | 10.23.17

Last week, a number of high-profile politicians – including two former presidents – delivered speeches on the state of the Union. The headlines included:

"McCain blasts ‘half-baked, spurious nationalism’ in emotional speech"

"American Discourse ‘Degraded by Casual Cruelty,’ says President George W. Bush"

"'Our democracy is at stake,' Obama says on Virginia campaign trail"

During his first post-presidency campaign stop, Obama told a Virginia rally:

"Folks don’t feel good right now about what they see. Maybe they don’t feel as if our public life reflects our best," Obama said. “Instead of our politics reflecting our values, we’ve got politics infecting our communities.”

Obama continued:

"Instead of looking for ways to work together and get things done in a practical way, we’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage."

Bush shared similar sentiments in his speech at the George W. Bush Institute:

"Our identity as a nation - unlike many other nations - is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence."

Other notable lines from #43 included:

  • "Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication."

  • "We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism."

  • "Bullying and prejudice in our public life …provides permission for cruelty and bigotry."

  • "The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them."

Sen. John McCain offered a similar rebuke of isolationism, both within our borders and without.

"We are living in the land of the free, the land where anything is possible, the land of the immigrant’s dream," the Arizona congressman said during his award speech at the National Constitution Center.

"To refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain 'the last best hope of earth' for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history."

Though their politics are different, their message was the same: there are forces dividing America.

"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad," McCain said. “We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

"We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty," Bush said. “Argument turns too easily into animosity.”

"What we can’t have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before that dates back centuries," Obama said. “Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That has folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century. Come on!”

### Your Turn

Obama, McCain, and Bush were speaking to the American people—now it’s your turn to respond. Have you experienced "discourse degraded by casual cruelty"? Do you find that “bigotry seems emboldened”? McCain ended his speech, “With all its suffering and dangers, the world still looks to the example and leadership of America to become, another, better place.” How do you think we can bridge our divisions and make it a better place?

Hit Take Action, tell your reps, then tell your fellow Americans.

—Josh Herman

Related Reading

* Your Turn: What is the Most Important Issue Facing the Nation Today?

(Photo Credit: mustafabilgesatkin / iStockphoto)

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