Concern for a nation divided

On June 10, 1782 members of the Continental Congress adopted the Great Seal of the United States. The development of the Seal was a collaborative effort of a committee of America's most respected founders that took six years to complete because those creating this new nation were concerned that they leave a legacy that would endure.

The Seal includes the motto "E Pluribus Unum" (Out of the many, One) and an eagle with an olive branch clasped in one talon and thirteen arrows clutched in the other. These three things together denote the power of unity in both peace and war.

Benjamin Franklin on that day in a letter to his friend Jonathan Shipley wrote, "After much occasion to consider the folly and mischiefs of a state of warfare, and the little or no advantage obtained even by those nations who have conducted it with the most success, I have been apt to think that there has never been, or ever will be, any such thing as a good war, or a bad peace."

Despite this careful crafting of a democratic republic where unity, respect for individual liberty, and justice reigned supreme, and the admonitions of its elders, Americans soon found themselves engaged in a disastrous Civil War.

Once again we live in a nation divided. Polls show that voters across the country are almost evenly divided on a wide range of issues and that positions seem to be hardening, according to the latest information from the Pew Research Center. The Center soberly declares:

National unity was the initial response to the calamitous events of Sept. 11, 2001, but that spirit has dissolved amid rising political polarization and anger. In fact, a year before the presidential election, American voters are once again seeing things largely through a partisan prism. The GOP has made significant gains in party affiliation over the past four years, but this remains a country that is almost evenly divided politically ­ yet further apart than ever in its political values.

The research shows a nation clearly divided on significant issues ranging from the handling of the war in Iraq and the economy to social concerns like homosexuality and affirmative action. The report also tracks a trend towards closer alignment between religious faith and political ideology.

Despite this news, there is reason to be optimist about areas where Americans find common ground.

In cities around the county people of all political stripes - both citizen and visitor - come together each week to build homes for families who would otherwise have none, contribute to the hungry, care for the old and young. Schools continue to be filled with mentors, and parents are adopting more children without regard to ethnicity.

Conservatives and liberals gather together in on street corners, electronic forums, and small groups to discuss Iraq, the economy, and latest social concerns.

And all of this civil discourse takes place without violence.

As we enter a new political season, each of us should pledge to listen to the "other side" just a little bit better, resist the urge to demonize candidate and parties, and work to overcome the disagreements that hinder us. Our founding fathers and mothers were well aware of the costs of division and gave us a motto not only for this nation but also for the entire world in which we live:From the many, One.

And, like the elders of America before him, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave guidance when he spoke to a nation divided over race, injustice, and war in recent decades. "We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation," he said. "If we make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

As we strive to live our highest ideals, we must work towards common ground.

Peace, Charlie

Charlie Jackson, is a sixth-generation Texas bid'nessman and founder of Texans for Peace www.texansforpeace.org


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