As 37 of us choral singers assembled for our first rehearsal together, a group leader cautioned us to avoid any conversation about politics. We had traveled to Abingdon, a lovely town in Virginia’s southwest corner, from far and wide, as we like to say: Saskatchewan, Maine, New Mexico, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Nevada.
What drew us together was our shared love of singing choral music. What might have separated us is our varied political attitudes, but that didn’t happen. We agreed at that first rehearsal to avoid discussing politics, lest we offend one or more of our fellow singers.
Next week, families will gather to share traditional Thanksgiving dinner and some precious time together. Millions of us will. This has become one of America’s most popular travel weekends. In preparation, young wives and husbands are warning their spouses to lay off any discussion of politics so as not to offend a relative and thus create tension.
A member of Congress, recently quoted in The New York Times, lamented this circumstance. He remarked that in recent months, fellow members from the other party have become transformed from respected colleagues into his enemies. His enemies. Think on that for a moment.
We who are disappointed in President Trump feel tempted to blame him for such divisiveness. Those who defend him in turn blame us, whom they regard as The Other Side. As a people, we have separated ourselves into two camps, Us and Them. We are on the side of the angels; they are evil, our enemies.
No one likes this. Well, maybe Vladimir Putin does. I believe that we all — both sides — lament this armed camp mentality, just as that member of Congress does. We don’t understand each other, and we are reluctant to try. Misunderstanding leads to distrust, which can lead to hostility, and hostility divides us. That’s not healthy for a nation. None of us wants a sick country.
Can we heal this division? We must, and we can, but it will take time and patience, and it will require all of us to work at it. Let’s get started.