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Opinion | The American way


The politics of hate and fear are as old as humankind but have become even more hardened here in the United States over the last four decades.

Looking out over the current hostile political landscape, the words “We the People,” “One Nation,” and “E Pluribus Unum” seem less aspirational than anachronistic. But some of us still stand firmly for those ideals as the American way.

To survive and prosper as a nation and a state, we must learn to be more than a red America or a blue America; we must work to become one America. We may never agree on some issues, but no one has cornered the market on what it is to be an American. If we look at the larger picture, there is much more that unites us than divide us, but there are those who want to feed the flames of our differences rather than mine for the ways in which we are alike.

Today, more than ever, political parties rely on voters who are against the other party to win elections. The same is often true within the government itself as elected officials govern according to what their base is against and not for what is best for all citizens.

It is easier to be against than to actually stand for something. But to some, being against is the same as being for, but that notion is not exactly true. Standing for something is hard work while being against a thing is often only a mental, knee-jerk reaction.

Having a fundamental understanding of politics’ real nature beyond this “us versus them” mentality was once thought of as essential to public service. The same awareness of these basics was true for political journalists and commentators.

But these days, we don’t always find the best and the brightest among our political class, and any interloper or zealot with an internet connection can rise as a voice in political circles and beyond.

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Lies and deceit are most frequently found at the center of political hatred fueled by those who profit from division. Fox News, MSNBC and countless radio shows and blogs prosper by exploiting our grievances while ignoring our shared values.

These schisms have produced voting patterns that scholars call negative partisanship.

“One of the most important developments in American politics over the last 40 years has been the rise of negative partisanship — the phenomenon whereby Americans largely align against one party instead of affiliating with the other,” according to a study by American political scientists Alan I. Abramowitz and Steven W. Webster.

“The concept is pretty simple,” according to Abramowitz and Webster. “Over the past few decades, American politics has become like a bitter sports rivalry, in which the parties hang together mainly out of sheer hatred of the other team, rather than a shared sense of purpose.”

Political parties have always been rivals, but governing should be the art of compromise for the betterment of the whole — not just the base.

How can we survive as one nation under God when even religion is used to divide us?

We all should condemn public sentiment, political leaders and all those who fulminate hatred because, ultimately, it is a consuming force more destructive than any horror of nature or weapon of war.

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If America falls or Alabama fails, it will be because of those who profit from fear and hate, and those who allow their passions to overrule good conscience.

Can we not acknowledge that blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God?

Standing for those ideas that bring us together to form a more perfect union should be our goal.

The preamble to the United States Constitution makes it clear what we are here to achieve.

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.”

The constitution’s objectives are, and always will be, goals we strive for, an unfinished work, a promise unfulfilled for all, but if we deny that hope to any, then it will one day be lost for all.

Do we not understand that a house divided cannot stand?

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The home we call America was not built on fear and hatred; it is made anew every day by hope and belief in our founding documents’ basic tenants.

The politics of hate will fell this house, but those who stand for liberty and justice for all can preserve it.

To live in peace and prosperity, we must build bridges that join us, not walls that separate us; that is the true American way.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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