Former President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Americanism is a matter neither of birthplace or national descent, but of the soul and of the spirit.” If he were alive today, he might have said, “Americanism is a matter neither of being Republican or Democrat, but of the soul and of the spirit.”

Today, America’s states may be united geographically, but its people are divided — by party, by class and other divisions. Many American leaders seek to divide, putting salt in old wounds and opening new ones. Some leaders are exploiting an old populist trick of demonizing certain groups of people to spread fear and cement one’s base of support. Populists understand that possibly no other human instinct is stronger than survival. If populists can make citizens believe that their life or their way of life is being threatened by outsiders, and that the populists are the only ones that will save them, the citizens will do anything to put the populists in power.

As the 2020 election dust settles, it’s time for a new American mandate
In a divided America, humility and love will help us heal

Dividing people is easy, but bringing people together is much harder. Uniting people only makes the country stronger and more resilient to genuine threats. With division, people are angry, scared and weak. With unity, there is understanding, peace and strength.

Policy disagreements are expected, but to believe that other Americans are evil or less American because they belong to a different political party is not just wrong, but dangerous. It is time to turn off the TV, put down the phone and focus on what unites us, such as our shared history, our shared struggle and our hope that our country continues to always become a “more perfect union.”

Abraham Lincoln’s words remain as vital today as when they were first shared. “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.” If our country is to fall, it will be because we let it happen.

Thankfully, our country is not as divided as it was during Lincoln’s presidency. But to avoid another civil war, Americans must begin to heal some of the divisions that have been exacerbated in recent years.

Dividing people is easy, but bringing people together is much harder.

Americans need to remember that Democrats and Republicans both love this country, that diversity is a strength and that fellow Americans are not one’s enemy. America is bigger and grander than any political party or policy issue. No party, politician or citizen has a monopoly on the flag, the Constitution or what it means to be American. 

The election is now over. It is time to move on and let go of petty grievances. It is time to unite. 

May we reject those who willfully divide the country. May we reject those who seek to sow division and violence in our country. And may we follow the admonition of Abraham Lincoln who said, “The nation is worth fighting for.”

We are strongest when we are united, and we must do our part to keep our country united. 

Bryant Holloway is a program associate for the pro-democracy organization Stand Up Republic.