An old friend sent me a text the other day informing me that he was taking a break from a long car trip to read in a coffee shop somewhere in the Deep South. He has, shall we say, a flair for the dramatic, and wanted me to know that “one wrong affectation and I could find myself viciously beaten by a pack of wild rubes.”
I replied that that no one would know that he was gay simply because he was reading Proust; it would only out him as pretentious. “No one actually reads Proust,” I told him. It did not take him long to respond, “No one from your class, no.”
It made me laugh, and the exchange is pretty indicative of our friendship. I gave him a hard time about how he chooses books based solely on their percentage of polysyllabic verbiage, and he shot right back with a jab about how growing up his father made much more money than mine. Neither one of us was serious and it was all in good fun, but the differences we joked about are, in fact, putting a serious strain on our country. I had hoped it would end on November 7th, but now am not so sure.
This friend, who grew up the son of a wealthy doctor on Long Island, had only partly in jest judged an entire coffee shop full of people based on the fact that they were from the other side of the Mason-Dixon line. Read into his text and you can see that he assumed that simply because they were southern they were violent, uneducated, and homophobic.
At the other end of the spectrum, an acquaintance of mine advertised outside his packie the day after the election that his country was born in 1776 but died in 2012. The implication was clear: he did not think the nation would survive a second Obama term. He claims it was not meant to be a political statement and was simply intended to generate some buzz for his establishment, but (Jameson aside) I’m not buying what he is selling. It got people talking, to be sure, but it was also unnecessarily divisive and incendiary. After a long, hard fought campaign, it was not the unifying type of message that our country needed to read.
In a country divided, we would do well to remember that Jesus’ longest prayer had as its central component a plea that all may be one. And what happens if we are not? We get tens of thousands of people petitioning to secede from the union… and then counter protests asking the government to deport those who wish to do so. Regardless if our candidate won or lost (and mine lost, again), we are all in this together. Taking your ball and going home is not a recipe for success.
The petitions for secession invariably begin with the words of Thomas Jefferson describing the occasions when it “becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,” and claim that this is one such time. While they appeal to history, they clearly forget what happened in our country less than a century after the Declaration of Independence was signed. In our bloodiest war ever, 625,000 men died establishing that the United States is not a confederation of independent states who are free to come and go as they please, but is instead one nation, indivisible.
We need not all be of one mind politically, and indeed I hope we never are. On the other hand we should all, Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, northerners and southerners, blondes, brunettes and redheads, be of one heart in wanting to grow and prosper together as a nation. After all, it is not only a kingdom that is divided against itself which cannot stand. The same goes for republics, too.