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How to heal America’s partisan divide

Illustration by Pierce Thiot

America is wounded. A contentious election season, capped by the shocking and reprehensible events Wednesday, added another scar to our growing history of division and enmity. Americans haven’t been this far apart from one another in decades. All we seem to agree on is that the other side is an existential threat to the nation we all hold dear.

Yet the union stands, and so it must. This is our strength, our bulwark in a tumultuous world. As President Abraham Lincoln said after an even more harrowing time, one that nearly tore our nation apart: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.” That will require more than good intentions.

For the inaugural issue of Deseret Magazine, we convened some of the nation’s leading writers, politicians, religious leaders and thinkers to find specific pathways to common ground. They come from across the country, all over the idealogical spectrum. Some have experienced political violence; others have lived with the impacts of bigotry and racism. Each brings unique insight on the healing we so desperately need.

Jeff Flake: Turn down the volume
“Discourse that would have been unacceptable not long ago has been normalized. It’s so loud that we’re starting to forget who we are, who we represent and the common ground we share.”

Fabiola Santiago: Our strength is in our diversity
“All that immigrants have brought through the generations from other parts of the world are what makes us most American, unique and exceptional.”

Sen. Tim Scott: The balm of service
“Despite the challenges our nation faced this election season, it is important that we rebuild and unite as Americans; this begins as we reach out to one another and lift those around us.”

Gabby Giffords: Channeling pain into purpose
“We must reject the notion that our country is irreparably broken, that the cracks and fissures in our nation are stronger than the ties that bind us.”

The Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen: Finding your place in America
Whether you care about healing divisions in your family, community or country, you are the one who holds the key: practicing and sharing love and exercising your natural curiosity.”

Cindy McCain: Healing starts with respecting others
“If children can learn what it means to respect each other at the age of 6, elected officials can too, and it’s about time they remembered the meaning of the word.”

Theresa Dear: Be the good
“Look for the good. Build upon the good. You don’t have to look far.”

Tom Udall: Friends can disagree
“Finding common ground with those you disagree with is hard. But during my service in Congress, I saw that it’s possible — even on the big issues.”

Sen. Mitt Romney: Calling upon our better angels
“My reading of history suggests what can heal social sickness. First, a great leader who ‘calls upon our better angels’ can bring us together.”

Gregory Smith: Learning from those who came before
“When we turn to our shared history as Americans, we encounter stories that can unite our future.”

Katrina Lantos Swett: Healing our nation through understanding human rights
“Though politics and pandemics may separate us, we can still come together around our love of country and our dedication to universal human rights.”

Sen. Ben Sasse: Building better communities
“Government is not going to solve all our problems, government’s not supposed to, and maybe we’ve gotten to this point by thinking the government, and our politics, whether we’re on the left or the right, is going to solve these problems that divide us.”

Sen. Mike Lee: The union and the Constitution forever
“America’s ability to make our diversity a strength is part of what makes us the greatest nation on earth. Our job is to make sure our diversity pulls us together instead of pulling us apart.”

David Kirby: Why you should think like a poet
“Like poets, then, we need to be clear-eyed, careful and confident, and we also need to get out there and stumble around until we come across the people who can help us, even though we don’t know who they are yet.”

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Gregory Smith: Learning from those who came before

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Sen. Mike Lee: The union and the Constitution forever

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