A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

lincoln_gettysburgpaintingThis article is a different topic for me, but one I can’t stop thinking about. I thought I’d share my thoughts and would like to hear yours. I have deliberately tried to present neither side, but the more holistic question that faces us – how do we come together? I wish I had an answer.

“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as newNorth as well as South.”

Abraham Lincoln campaign speech for US Senate, June 1858. (By the way, he lost to Stephen Douglas only later to become our 16th President.)

We are, once again, a house divided.  Fractured might be a more descriptive word.  Our choices in this coming election are polarized, with each side using colorful and destructive language to describe the other side.

It seems I can’t talk with anyone about the upcoming election as each has a staunch position and clam up when a question is asked that might veer in a different direction. And I really need to talk, because I don’t know what to do.

The Facebook memes are downright mean, insulting the basic values of people who have a different perspective.  When they don’t insult the person, they tell us how perilous the other sides’ values are, and how only they can save the country from bad things.

If only the answer was as clear as “they” describe.

But it isn’t.  It can’t be.  Our world is too complex for any one answer to be right.  Our issues are too multi-faceted to be solved without some sacrifice on one side or another.

But I see so many people digging in, standing their ground and following the example of those who aspire to lead the country by mocking those who think differently.

There isn’t an easy answer, and surely there is no possibility of accommodating every citizens’ desire for what their country will be.  There have to be some core values that everyone can agree on, by which we can have a healthy debate, not to destroy the other side, but to find the best answer.

The polarity confounds me.  It scares me. To hear intelligent, caring people on both sides spout soundbites that put down the opponent makes me sad.

“A house divided cannot stand.”

We are a house divided. We are at a point where it seems that the best approach is to get on with formally dividing the country and letting folks live where they feel most comfortable.

But I wouldn’t be able to claim a side.  I don’t want to live in a homogenous world – I’ve come to love the diversity and rich cultures that we are blessed to have here. I want a safe world for eons to come, but I know that neither side has a single right answer to preserve our safety – it will take honest debate to arrive at a solution that might work. It will take stacking hands around the solution and taking responsibility together for the outcome.

And we are now at the precipice that science fiction writers have long predicted – that point where technology puts privacy is at risk. We will never have a perfect solution, but we must debate and join together to find a place to start.

What is standing in our way of these healthy debates that could heal our country and bring our house back together?

In my opinion, it is trust. It is very difficult to cede your position when you don’t trust the others’ intent. We no longer trust our leaders, so we push them toward what we believe is right. And we push, and they move and now we have a house divided.

I think that, down deep, we all know that we have lost that trust that is so important for our future prosperity.

Can we really go down this “either/or” road we are going, and survive?  I don’t think so. That makes me sad.

As Lincoln’s speech suggests, we have been here before – standing before a house divided that may implode. We have significantly more divisive differences than we had in 1858, so our work is harder.  But we figured it out before. Can we do it again?

2 thoughts on “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

  1. Hi Carol, Powerful article. When I am as uncertain about an issue as I am about our political environment, I turn to the only thing that I believe offers me a since of what I should do as a human being. So here it is. Mark 3:24-26 implies that our continued survival depends on internal cooperation. I believe it is more important to change my attitude about others and see them as a whole person. Meaning, we all have different opinions, but does the difference of opinion make us bad people? I say no. I am sure you will get opinions that are totally the opposite of mine, but that’s the beauty of it I believe. I think we are in trouble because of fear of the unknown, loss of power, money and prestige, no respect for each other’s opinions or expertise. So I think the only way to survive depends on how we process internally which should be the foundation of how we act externally. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Thanks Phil – powerful, as well. I am excited by the differences in who we all are, as well as by the idea of what we could be if we worked together. I hope that we can find a way.

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