These days it’s oh-so-easy to discern the fault lines and fractures that keep us apart. It’s much more difficult to find the ties that bind us together. Somewhere along the way, our commonality has been swallowed up in the black hole of politics in the Trump era; our union has become our disunion. I’d like to think we can rediscover the ties that bind us together but I’m not at all sure that’s possible anytime soon given the current climate. Still, it’s worth a try.
I thought maybe I’d find the ties that bind us in our common nationality. After all, we’re all Americans; we all pledge allegiance to the same flag. No matter where, when or how our families came here; no matter the color of our skin, or what religion (if any) we choose to practice, or whatever our gender or our sexual orientation—none of these descriptors really matter. We are all still Americans, still one people. We still believe in our own cherished creeds: that all men and women are created equal, that we can form a more perfect union, and that government of, by, and for the people shall not perish from the earth. That should be enough to bind us together…right?
Sadly, it’s not. It seems there are a few among us—some even in positions of great power and influence—who espouse a different creed, one that marginalizes women, immigrants, people of color, people with physical or intellectual disabilities, people who worship a different God, people with a different sexual identity or orientation. To these sad souls, anyone who is different from them or the least bit threatening to them warrant not empathy and protection, but persecution and exclusion. I used to think these folk were just misguided social outliers, people who made the rest of us continually strive to form an ever more perfect union. Now I’m not so sure they’re simply outliers. They may be far more numerous than I ever imagined and may constitute a deeper, darker strain within us that defies any possible binding tie. It’s a scary thought.
So if the ties that bind us together aren’t present in our ‘Americanness,’ then maybe they are to be found deeper down in ourselves among the better angels of our nature. After all, we are all human beings who want to build a better life for ourselves and a better world for our children. But here again, I find myself bumping up against the four pale horsemen of this new dystopian apocalypse: fear, greed, mockery, and deceit. If we are ever to be bound together again, we will somehow have to learn to trust each other, to rediscover common purpose, to reunite so that we can truly make one out of many. Given the way of the world today, that may seem a Herculean task. It is, but it’s a necessary one.
I’m no longer under any illusions: this mess is likely to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better. However, I am, by nature, an optimist which means I will continue to search out those ties that can start to bind his together again. I’ll look up in the attic, down in the basement, under the bed, or around the bend—wherever there is a chance of finding that first, tiny thread that will begin to weave the rope that will bind us together again.
I could sure use a little help.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com