Boarding the plane to return to the United States after two years overseas, uncertainty as to what to expect left me uneasy. Coming from an area in Australia with no active COVID cases into an America portrayed by the media and political hacks as either a viral hell or the last bastion of freedom in the face of a global hoax was unsettling.
What was so starkly illustrated after only a few days in South Carolina was just how deep a disservice that many of our leaders as well as much of the traditional and digital media have done to how the world, and many Americans, perceive America.
Despite the purveyors of fear and division, I remain a firm believer in the Republic. The vitality of thought, the spirit of community, and the desire for a better tomorrow were woven throughout my daily conversations in Beaufort, Charleston as well as with others from across the U.S.
Extremism exists, with the sins of our past and present in need of address. But that does not mean that all those that voted for Trump are fascists, that all those calling for greater equity in opportunity and access to the American dream are socialists or anarchists, that Democrats are would-be dictators, or that those without a college degree or that live in remote areas are somehow inferior.
Central to the genius of America’s founding is an evergreen framework for the continuous betterment of our union. Regardless of the individual and collective failings of its authors, the American constitution offers us renewed opportunity to come together and forge a better path. I read these words again and find renewed hope:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
We the People. The definition of “people” to which the blessings framed in the Constitution are bestowed has rightfully changed to encompass us all as citizens of the same nation. Regardless of race, color, creed, education or economic class, we as citizens share in the promise of America.
Compromise was at the heart of our founding. Inherent to representative government is that no one person or party can or should dominate.
When listening only to the rushing tides of political and ideological echo chambers, one might perceive that the concept of national interest is no more. Yet, less heard but ever present, the small conversations between us speak of the politics and sense of relatedness that I grew up with as the son of a U.S. Navy Master Chief from South Carolina and a schoolteacher from Virginia.
Whether in my circle of family and friends in Beaufort and Charleston, talking with the local bartender, engaging with current and former government officials from both parties, or listening to masked strangers in JFK or O’Hare, the desire for and belief in the national interest was evident. This is not to say that all were in agreement over what composes or should inform the national interest, but certainly that there are interests that exist above self.
Politics and governing are messy. While we look to blame our political leaders or others, we should realize that we are all complicit in America’s failings, and must together be accountable for creating that more perfect union.
As Americans we all are involved. We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. We are not enemies.
Those that would spread fear and hate or use metrics of division to pursue not equity but power should ask themselves to what end? The tools of propaganda used by some on the Left and Right in today’s America reflect the methods used by Lenin and Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Mao and so many others to sow division, enable exploitation, and dehumanize.
Stepping outside of our individual and group echo chambers to seek inputs from diverse sources of information, to question ourselves and our analyses, to use critical thinking and common sense is essential. Apathy and acceptance without inquiry leaves us vulnerable to extremists internally and those externally who would do us, and America, harm.
We can differ, loudly on occasion, but we must not be divided in our intent to build a better union. As Americans we are blessed. We the People should never lose sight of the opportunities presented to us, and the potential we hold – together.
John Moore, currently based in Australia and originally from Virginia, looks forward to visiting family and friends in Charleston and Beaufort whenever possible. Having served with the U.S. Departments of Defense and State in the 1990s, he has more than 25 years of international experience supporting government, humanitarian and development organizations as well as private-sector interests across the Middle East, South Asia, East Africa and the South Pacific.