I’m trying to look past this divisive and distracting presidential election to what happens next. The so-called “presidential” debates and related news coverage are now essentially R-rated. My children cannot watch this.
I am increasingly worried that after this yearlong made-for-TV spectacle ends, which feels increasingly like rubbernecking at a car accident on the highway, no one will be able to govern. Nothing will get done or worse yet, Americans will continue to get further and further apart from each other.
We can blame the politicians, or the media, but at the end of the day it will be our fault. As the saying goes, “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.” This is true from the White House to the Congress to the local city hall.
Americans need to start looking each other in the eye and start reminding ourselves that we are all on the same team. We need to do this before the next election or the next terrorist attack, because ultimately no one can defeat America, but America.
Our country is not defined by class or ethnicity or party, it is defined by values. We need to remind ourselves of this and, hopefully, our leaders will follow.
I have had the privilege to crisscross this great land of ours for business and for pleasure. My two favorite trips have been from the Bronx, NY, to Palo Alto, CA, by motorcycle and about one decade later with my wife by car from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. My research is not scientific, but I have usually been able to have a conversation with anyone in the United States of America about one of three values: Freedom, Family and Faith.
Political and economic freedom is the hallmark of American history. It has sustained multi-generational American families and has attracted millions of new citizens every year for hundreds of years. Almost every American has said, “I have a dream,” at some point in their life about something. This is the land of opportunity. Americans cherish it and will defend it.
Family is the foundation of society. Strong families make for strong communities and strong communities make for a strong country. For good or for ill, families play a bigger role in people’s daily welfare than government or any other institutions. No amount of money or policy can replace it. If you want to have an honest conversation with someone, ask them how their family life is doing.
Americans are a people of faith. Whether they believe in God and/or country, belief in something larger than oneself is the glue that unites us all. If someone says that they don’t believe in anything but themselves, I proceed very carefully. If you believe in God or the USA, we are family.
So I am not waiting for politicians, or the media, to lead a sustained or serious conversation about how Americans are going to come together and fix whatever needs fixing, from healing our nation’s fragile sense of unity (because we have more in common than not) to making our diversity a strength (because it’s an obvious demographic reality) to rebuilding our roads, bridges and airports (because it also seems like a smart way to employ more Americans, including veterans… ask Eisenhower)!
I am no philosopher, but I agree, we Americans will get what we deserve. In the meantime, I may just need to buy another motorcycle, hit the road and talk to some of my extended family members about finding some solutions, together. E Pluribus Unum.
Richard Wayner is the founder of Fort Greene Partners (FGP), a minority-owned company certified with the NY/NJ Minority Supplier Development Council since 2009.