The Illusion of American Unity

| Christie McNabb |

Historically speaking, American unity has been an illusion. First there was that whole thing about acquiring the land we live on by incredibly violent and forceful means. Pretty sure the Natives didn’t feel unified behind those decisions. And believe it or not, not every colonist wanted revolution. Some were content with British rule. Then there was that whole Civil War thing. You know, the one where half the country tried to leave the union. And so on, and so forth. Perhaps the closest we ever came to feeling unified was in the pain an shock of 9/11, but then we quickly devolved to disagreement again when it was time to decide next steps.

Although I appreciated the appeals for unity yesterday, something about them didn’t feel right, didn’t feel genuine. And then I reflected on our history. There has never been one way we’ve all stood on something. Even the whole concept of being a “melting pot” could be labeled as little more than propaganda; we’ve never treated any round of immigrant, no matter the country of origin, as a true part of the population.

I’m not saying I agree with bickering or fighting or name-calling or violence toward one another. I’m simply saying that pleas for unity are a bit too high of an expectation and, honestly, too much. I’ll never feel united behind a Trump presidency, but neither do I feel like joining the protesters.

Perhaps it’s ok to not feel united right now, or even ever. Perhaps disagreement and discourse are what makes us who we are as a country, even if it’s uncomfortable. Even if we don’t like this about ourselves. We aren’t the only nation that struggles with racism or classism or gender issues, but maybe if we stopped expecting everyone to be on the same page all the time, we could allow our differences to guide us forward.

I’ve seen the “love wins” posts, and I don’t disagree that we all have the choice to give love in the face of all this. But I want more. I want permission to feel what I’m feeling. I want permission for all of us to acknowledge that the great experiment of the United States is that we are all strange bedfellows. We want different results. We have different expectations for what it means to be “American” and we may NEVER come to an agreement on that. I want to acknowledge how uncomfortable we all feel with those who are different than ourselves.

If we are going to be united, let’s be united in letting go of our expectations of one another and this country, and just start figuring out how we can live with one another.

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