For decades, progressive identity politics have increasingly driven a wedge between Americans. The Democratic Party has routinely divided Americans by race, religion, and gender, appealing to the American people as interest groups rather than as citizens. They primarily do this by labeling their opponents as a threat or as racists, as noted here by PragerU:
In recent years, this divisive tactic has spread to some, I will not say conservatives, in the Republican Party. The rise of politicians and political organizers who gain funding and power from pitting Americans against each other must be checked. The rhetoric of groups such as Black Lives Matter and the alt-right serves to emphasize our differences and may ultimately make our country ungovernable and irreconcilable.
In this moment, it is time to discuss what unites us as Americans. It is time to revisit what makes each and every one of us an American, the principles that we adopted after we had the privilege of being born in or admitted to this great country. Amongst all the nations founded to further the interests of a powerful family, united by a king, held together by a common ethnicity, or conquered by a faith such as Islam, the United States has the unique privilege to be the oldest country founded upon a philosophy. The inalienable rights addressed by John Locke, as well as a great deal of his other principles, make their appearance in our revolutionary documents, especially the Declaration of Independence. Our Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights it contains, emphasizes the separation of power within the government and the protection of the individual citizen from tyranny. Lincoln recognized this unique founding in his Gettysburg Address, calling America “a new nation conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” We do not trace our heritage to a single nation, or a single group of nations, but to this proposition. While in the beginning, most Americans traced their ancestry to Europe or Africa, this proposition is open to people of every ethnicity.
The hands of freed slaves, immigrant laborers from China, and the unwanted or persecuted refugees of European revolutions joined together to build the world’s strongest economy, to rescue our colonial masters from Germany twice, and to create the world’s sole military superpower. Despite sins in our past, we have united this country to humble the National Socialists and the Communists alike.
We are now divided once again, but we have overcome such obstacles in the past. The Mormons faced persecution wherever they traveled. African-Americans suffered under plantation owners, the Confederacy, and the Ku Klux Klan. Catholics, especially Catholic immigrants, were persecuted by groups such as the Know Nothing Party. All of these cases involved frequent and fatal violence. Yet each of these groups persevered through this hatred. As a Catholic, I am proud that we enriched the country with our culture and faith rather than surrendering to those who would have blocked our entry if they could. Nationalists of many types have persecuted minorities in our history, but patriots of all races and religions have responded by fighting and dying in our wars and building our country.
The attachment of these patriots to the founding principles of our country, exemplified best by those who serve, is what defines us as Americans. While we legally become citizens through our birth here or through legally immigrating to this country, our love of this country and the philosophy she was built on make our citizenship more than a mere accident of birth. This manifests itself not only through small external displays of patriotism such as our National Anthem, The Pledge of Allegiance, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, or fireworks, but the incredible sacrifice of all who have served in our Armed Forces and the support we provide for them. It manifests itself in immigrants who pursue the American Dream as they depart countries that limit their opportunities and stifle their voices. If they come legally and embrace our values, everyone is welcome to join and build this country. In manifests itself in the voices of millennial patriots, speaking about what being an American means to them:
“The great part about being an American patriot is that there are a thousand ways you can earn this title. First, you can hold it by simply being born on U.S. soil or descent from U.S. citizens. The second part of the title must be earned. It requires a direct act to hold in the land of opportunity where the storied American dream takes place. The path to earning the “patriot” part is as unique as you are. For less than one present of the population that path is serving in the military. For others, this path is teaching the children of this great nation. Some will become first responders. Some will protest when the government is believed to have exceeded its responsibilities. The path to being called an American patriot is as unique as the individual who takes it. But everyone should remember this title isn’t untouchable. You have people like Bradley Manning who lose all claim to such title. And those who fall off this pedestal have no way to recover it,” Travis Synder, veteran.
“I think what makes a person an American is patriotism for America. I think an American loves their country and shows that support through their everyday life. Being an American is about protecting and loving the country of America,” Kianna Chevalier, Catholic University of America.
As a person with a lot of immigrant family members, what made them American was a love of freedom and democracy, an appreciation for our institutions, and the commitment to participating in America’s success politically and economically. America is an idea, so being American is a choice in many ways, to commit to and support the principles of the American experiment, so to speak. To me it has very little to do with food, language, etc. at its core, which is why my foreign-born (sister) Tia is as much an American as I am,” Mimi Texiera, University of Notre Dame.
It is my hope that each side will embrace this common identity and that conservatives will continue to reject the alt-right, while progressives expel their own radicals and learn a new appreciation for those who protect and serve. The president has expressed a desire to heal the wounds of past identity politics and this election season. This will not occur if both sides focus on their differences. The Speaker has proposed a better way forward for a united America. We would be wise to take it. There must be no tomorrow, no dawn, for the movements that wish to divide us between black and white, Christian and Muslim. While our president and the vast majority of our elected officials support this goal, it is not up to them, but rather up to us to decide whether we will live in a united or divided country. Self-interested politicians rarely adopt positions that antagonize most of their constituents or turn a deaf ear towards the concerns of a vocal majority. It is our responsibility to stand together and make ourselves heard.