We need to Bring America Together Again

Andy Serwer
Editor in Chief

Our country is divided. That much is obvious.

It’s a troubling state of affairs, and the worst part is that no one seems to be particularly interested in doing anything about it. To me it’s shocking that so many ordinary citizens — never mind our political leaders — scream and yell and call at each other, as if that will make things better.

Ending this fractiousness and uniting our country is the most pressing issue of our time.

So, I’m putting out a call for us to come together. Now. What we need is to ‘Bring America together again.’ That’s right, BATA. (And no, I’m not kidding.)

Ok, a few things. Yes, BATA bounces off of President Donald Trump’s MAGA. I hope POTUS doesn’t mind.  I don’t. And in fact, I hope BATA resonates with his supporters because, of course, they need to be a part of this too. We all do.

You may be asking about the ‘again’ part of BATA, as in, when was America ever together? (People asked a similar question about MAGA — as in ‘Make America great again,’ exactly when was that?)

Before I answer that question though, let me point out that our nation has been even more divided than it is today — Warren Buffett pointed this out to me in an interview not long ago.

When was our nation ever together?

Consider 1863, the third and bloodiest year of the Civil War, when some 80,000 Americans were killed in combat — by other Americans! Another low point was 1968 with the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and the violence of the Democratic convention in Chicago. I remember wondering — as an 8-year-old child, mind you — if our country could hold it together. So yes, we’ve seen worse, but that doesn’t mean that right now isn’t bad. While we aren’t killing each other by the thousands at Gettysburg, or murdering major political figures, the poison and hatred being spewed at each other on social media and by public figures carries its own distinctive horror and hopelessness.

So back to the question, when was our nation together? Interestingly in 1969 (one year after 1968), we were together for the moon landing. It was an epic, unifying and apolitical moment. Quick, who was president during the moon landing? Answer: Richard Nixon. (He telephoned them, remember?) In fact, the entire space program — jumpstarted by JFK of course and reaching that pinnacle under Nixon —was apolitical. America rejoiced and celebrated those accomplishments together.

We were also together in 1945, after Germany and Japan surrendered. Maybe that seems obvious, but what I find interesting about winning World War II was that it wasn’t considered a great victory for the Democratic Party even though of course Franklin Roosevelt — who died a few months before the surrenders — was the commander in chief for almost the entire conflict. No one said, ‘We just won World War II, what a great victory for the Democratic party and liberalism!’ No, this was obviously a victory for our entire nation.

Natural disasters also bring us together and so do Olympic triumphs and will continue to do so.

So, we have it in us.

I would argue though that it isn’t some sort of gauzy era of yesteryear so much as it is moments when we Americans collectively feel togetherness. So maybe we need a moment or moments to jump start us, but barring that, can’t we at least try to do more than simply acknowledge the problem — as many of us do — and actually address it?

Taking the lead in bringing people together

I am just amazed and disgusted that almost without exception, not a single politician is trying to do anything about this. I guess you garner more votes and clicks by being shrill, accusatory and uncompromisingly unequivocal. Trump is a big part of this, of course. It’s undeniable that he has been a divider-in-chief. Even if you are his biggest fan, you have to admit that bringing people together isn’t his strong suit. And more realistically, pitting us against each other is part of his M.O. But to be clear, Trump and the GOP do not have a complete monopoly on this behavior — Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are you listening?

I have a message to everyone practicing the politics of disunity — be you a blogger or a politician: There is nothing more un-American than foisting divisiveness upon your nation. Full stop.

I’d love for a political leader to unfurl the BATA banner, but in the meantime, we, the people, can begin to take matters in our own hands. It starts locally. I’m not suggesting political debates to hash out issues so much as I am just hanging out.

For instance, police departments and Black Lives Matter groups have had cookouts in Wichita, Kan., and sit downs in Phoenix and Chicago.

We need more of that. Prominent organizations can take the lead. How about NFL teams meeting with the police and communities in each of its cities? Companies with a huge retail footprint like McDonald’s, Walmart and Starbucks could hold similar events.

Once we get the ball rolling maybe a politician will jump on the bandwagon. Wouldn’t that be something.

In the meantime, I’m going to start making BATA hats. Who wants one?


Andy Serwer is Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief. Read more:

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