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Thursday, May 5, 2022

Overcoming the Great Divide

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Promoting civility in areas of disagreement

Watching news, reading newspapers and scouring social media identify deep divisions in our politics and our culture. Poll results indicate that Americans on both sides of the political divide have significant concerns about the direction of our country.

Initially, our tendency is to blame some entity – government, political leaders, schools, universities or political parties. However, pointing our fingers at one or more of these entities accomplishes nothing. The blame game does nothing to change things for the better.

For this column, I thought about five things I could do as an individual to promote civility in areas of disagreement with others.

Then I added five more ways to work with others to change the direction of our culture in a positive way. On a personal level, we can:

Live the truth. The Bible says, “The truth will set you free.” The defense of freedom begins with all of us seeking truth and then living it.

Have gratitude for our blessings and share these blessings with others. My anxiety over the direction of our country is greatly alleviated when I realize I live in the greatest country in the history of the world. For over 250 years, America has been a beacon of freedom.

Practice the Golden Rule. Would the world around me be better if I treated others the way I want to be treated? Would there be greater civility? Could practicing this rule as individuals or as a community change the direction of the country? What if we really took the great commandment to heart and “loved one another”?

Don’t underestimate the potential to impact others for the good. It is easy to just throw up our hands in despair at every new headline, but nothing good is accomplished with that attitude. None of us fully realizes our impact on others and the world around us. When we think about it for just a moment, we can all remember teachers, parents and friends who transformed our lives.

Focus on creating opportunity for others. This means providing and encouraging work and innovation as keys to prosperity. Though no one can guarantee equal outcomes, equal opportunity is a founding principle. We can help provide excellence in education for all people.

On a community and national level, we can work together to change the direction of our culture.

Strong families can turn the culture in the right direction. We can start with our own family, and we can pass along the treasures of civilization and freedom to our children and grandchildren. Building strong families is the foundation of overcoming generational poverty. What if we could find a way to create more strong families?

Apply biblical principles. In the Old Testament, the prophet Micah wrote, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” The scriptures show the way to justice and mercy. Silencing the church and censorship were the first steps in the Communist and Nazi movements of the 20th century. We shouldn’t let it happen in America.

Don’t forget the foundation of our Declaration of Independence. We should live by it as individuals and as a government. The Founding Fathers wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Preserve the Bill of Rights. These civil liberties are our unalienable rights. Threats to freedom of speech, press, assembly, protest, petition and religion in Amendment One are threats to our democracy. The same is true for the other civil liberties in Amendments 2-10. Elon Musk described these rights as the “bedrock of a functioning democracy.” We should all work together to preserve the liberty that comes with the Bill of Rights.

Stand up for these foundation principles in our founding documents. In the classic work “Democracy in America” by de Tocqueville, he noted, “Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot.” We can and should speak truth to power and stand up to those who threaten our foundation principles.

There are individual and collective ways to provide solutions for our deep divide and seemingly endless hostility. Those solutions are found in the heart of Americans. Integrity, gratitude, charity, opportunity and reliance on long-standing principles apply the wisdom of the ages to our differences.

Dr. Phillip Rozeman is a practicing physician. He has recently been recognized with the Distinguished Service Awards of the Northwest Louisiana Medical Society and Council for a Better Louisiana.

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