Fifty-two years ago at Akron University, President Lyndon B. Johnson gave a speech in which he called on the American people to work together to address the challenges facing the nation.
His closing words in his address were as follows: “I saw a poll coming down here this morning. It showed that I had most of the Democrats and had 30 percent of the Republicans. But that distressed me, that I only had 30 percent of the Republicans. Those are good people if they get the truth and if they get the facts, and we have to improve that situation between now and November the 3rd. So let’s all put our shoulders to the wheel and unite instead of divide, and again in the words of the prophet, let’s go out and reason together.”
Truer words were never spoken, nor were they ever needed as much. This most recent campaign has divided us as a nation in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable. This is not that we have not been divided before; we were coming off the tail end a Civil War 150 years ago. We’ve been divided over issues like Iraq and Vietnam and how we deal with the rights of those of different skin colors and sexual orientations. However, despite those divisions, we were always Americans and we all came together to address our issues and solve our problems. We could use some of that again.
To give you that idea of just how much, a Pew Research study this past summer showed for the first time in nearly 25 years that majorities in both parties expressed not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party. There was even a study that showed more Americans had problem with their sons or daughters dating and marrying someone of a different political party as opposed to race. We have gone through the looking glass and it’s time to turn around and come back.
This doesn’t mean we can’t disagree. And I am not talking about returning to a romanticized era of public discourse that never existed. What I am saying is that now that the election is over we need to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember nobody has a monopoly on good ideas or stupidity. Republicans can learn from Democrats. Democrats can learn from Republicans. And both parties can learn something from Libertarians.
However, to do that, it means you need to stop talking and start listening. I know this sounds counterproductive coming from a guy who talks for a living. But one thing I make it a point to do is listen to the other side and make a point to understand them, and when I disagree I make it a point to be civil. I also make it a point to have friends and colleagues who don’t think the same way I do. If I wanted to be around someone all the time I agreed with, as appealing as this might be, I’d stand in front of a mirror all day.
So, as we go forward with new administrations in Washington, D.C., and the Statehouse, let’s make a point to listen and understand more. Remember, the good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. With that said, shall we follow LBJ’s advice: “Come now, let us reason together.” And more importantly, let us work together.
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.