By Andrew Wong (V) By the time this article has been published, you will hopefully know who the next President of the United States is––either Joe Biden or Donald Trump. But does that mean months of incessant conflict will finally come to an end?

As America wakes up from this nightmare of an election and picks up the pieces, you, the reader, along with the rest of our nation, will now have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Perhaps the candidate you rooted for did not win. Or maybe they did. You may be thrilled at what has occurred, or you might be getting ready for the impending apocalypse. Whatever happened with the presidential election, however, the task at hand is straightforward: we must begin the process of rebuilding the broken ties of a deeply divided nation.

Writing this in October, with less than three weeks to go before the general election, I don’t have that privilege of hindsight to see what will happen after the election. During these closing days, emotions are running high. There’s no doubt that America faces challenges it has never seen before. The global coronavirus pandemic, economic chaos, glaring racial injustice, and crime in our streets have all contributed to a general unease about what lies ahead. Many believe that the future of our republic rests in the outcome of this election, and many believe that, should things go awry, it could quite possibly mean the end of our storied history. A quick scan of recent headlines from media outlets only confirms our nation’s general anxiety over our future: “The Threat to Democracy” from CNN, “I Fear We Are Witnessing the End of American Democracy” from the New York Times, “Can American Democracy Be Saved?” from The Atlantic, and so forth. 

While one may attribute these headlines to media sensationalism, the underlying tension and conflict that permeates our society right now cannot be understated. Republicans vs. Democrats, the rich vs. the working-class, urban vs. rural. Divisions are incredibly evident in our modern society. If we are to continue down this road, perhaps the Founding Fathers’ warning that “united we stand, divided we fall” will indeed come to fruition. So how do we stop this slow burn to the end?

In Federalist Paper No. 10, Founding Father James Madison writes of the dangerous yet fundamental nature of division, stating that “a zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government … an attachment to different leaders contending for pre-eminence and power … have divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them more disposed to vex … rather than to cooperate for their common good.” When the Founding Fathers first created our republic, they understood that division and factionalism would be a threat to our nation, but they had a solution. 

In enshrining the civic virtue of civil discourse within our very own First Amendment with the right to free speech, the Founding Fathers intended for citizens and government to overcome such division through civil discussion and compromise. Yet, as shown by the chaos in our nation today, we’ve failed to live up to these ideals. We’ve thrown civil discussion out the window in exchange for glorified shouting matches, replaced the debate of ideas with insults, and instead of seeing those on the opposing side as fellow Americans, we treat them like they are our worst enemies. The symptoms of this are everywhere, be it in the First Presidential Debate, TV political panels, social media, or sometimes even within Pingry’s own community.

In spite of these tensions, I implore you, Dear Reader, to keep in mind the ideals of our republic and try to navigate the future after the election with some sense of civility. Rather than turning political debates into melees, as we all have been guilty of at some point, perhaps try to listen to the ideas of the opposition. Maybe change the news or the radio to a different source and listen for a bit. Attend a Pingry Politics Club meeting, and listen to your peers discuss various political topics in a safe environment. Or engage in some casual conversation with peers who have opposite views on certain issues and try to find common ground. Who knows? Maybe you will realize that your ideas were a bit flawed, or maybe come up with better counterarguments to the opposition by learning from them. 

Such things cannot occur, however, if we continue to regard our opposition as personal adversaries. At the end of the day, we all are Americans. We all salute the same flag and enjoy a common set of freedoms and liberties. As we set about rebuilding a fractured nation, let’s push forth past our differences and halt America’s downward spiral into faction.