By Yvonne Sam
In America, as the call for national “unity” from people in the media and political classes gets louder, a stronger sense of displacement appears. Taking into consideration events, such as protests, an impeached ex-president, business closures, government-ordered quarantine, lock-downs and riots, national unity is an inexecutable illusion.
Americans were told by the so-called “unifiers” that all Trump had to do to unify the country was to go quietly into that good night, and that all Joe R. Biden has to do to help unify the country, is to make nice with Trump voters, and, above all, be the liberal/moderate that he has displayed in public, during his four decades of government service. What an oxymoron.
On September 9, 1776, the Continental Congress formally declared the name of the new nation to be the “United States of America”. This replaced the term “United Colonies”, which had been in general use. www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-renames-the-nation-united-states-of-america.
Despite the name, the United States of America is not, and has never been, a united country. It is a federation of states, comprised of 330 million people of different religions, political beliefs and cultural values.
The states are held together, legally, by the Constitution, with all the amendments, and culturally, by tradition, mass media and educational indoctrination. The political, economic, and judicial system is based on fierce competition.
It is not just that public trust in politics has been declining for decades, public confidence in virtually every major American institution — from religion and the courts to media and the military — has fallen.
The best we can hope for is tolerance. I do not mean the new definition of tolerance — the one that means we love and celebrate our differences — I am referring instead, to the old definition that required actual toleration.
President Biden will struggle to live up to his lofty themes of unity and healing, but alone he cannot unite America.
The questions remain: what would a president do to unite us?
What is President Joe Biden’s blueprint for reuniting the nation, considering that 74 million Americans who voted for Donald J. Trump?
Furthermore, I dare ask, is it the job of a president to unify the country?
Far too many people mistakenly think that it is the president’s job to “run” the country, when, in truth and essence, not so. Presidents do not run anything. Nada!
The president’s job is to manage, not the country, but a single branch of government, and appoint people to “run” large federal bureaucracies, staffed by employees.
The more the call for national unity reverberates, the more I think of the song “Imagine”, by John Lennon, of Beatles fame. Nice song but unimaginable. No heaven, no hell, no greed, no hunger, no possessions, a brotherhood of man? Really, man?
If history has proved anything, such a world could never exist once it is inhabited by human beings. The sooner that reality is faced or gotten used to, then the chances for relative peace and tranquility will be better.
One thing that unites America is an attack by outsiders. Americans are loosely united in going to war against foreign enemies. Note the war in Iraq and how rapidly they became disunited in the fighting of that.
As America’s 46th president seeks to fulfill his urgent plea for unity, he will confront a dissonance between the two parties’ definitions of the word, and is likely to be forced to choose between fighting for a bold agenda and forging bipartisan agreements.
Will those disaffected by the defeat of Trump listen, and will they, as President Biden asked, agree amicably to disagree?
At his inauguration, on a chilly January day on the West Front of a Capitol that was overrun two weeks ago by a pro-Trump mob, Biden said, “For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage, no nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward.” Biden urged, “Hear me clearly: disagreement must not lead to disunion.”
The irony lies in the fact that this Union (United Colonies) later U.S.A started out in disagreement. The ultimate hope is that the majority of Americans and their representatives in Washington truly want the country — rather than a particular political dogma — to succeed.
President Biden will struggle to live up to his lofty themes of unity and healing, but alone he cannot unite America. That’s not to say the effort is pointless.
Aleuta, the struggle continues.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is the Chair of the Rights and Freedom Committee at the Black Community Resource Centre. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.