We cannot know the future. But we do know where we are, and what we’ve endured; and it grows increasingly evident that our times of great rancor, great anguish, and great malice will very likely only worsen after Election Day 2020. We will see rancor, anguish, and malice in each other; we will know it in ourselves.
And all for good reason; for much is now at stake. Our communities and our principles, our rights and our heritage, the most vulnerable among us, our system of government and our trust in each other, all are threatened in this election as never before in our lifetimes. The rage, the fear, the hate we feel, arise for the best of reasons—out of love. Our love for our way of life, our love for the things and people we’ve held dear, and a noble desire to protect those things from all who would endanger them.
And so, let us act in love on Election Day; let us argue and campaign and vote for what we love.
But whatever the outcome of the election—whether our candidate or party loses or wins, whether there’s a long stalemate and uncertainty, or worse, whether we enter some uncharted constitutional crisis, should that come—whatever the election’s outcome, and regardless of its implications, and what rage and fear and hate they might inspire in us, let us continue to act in love. So let us pledge to act in love beyond Election Day. Let us act in love, onward to Inauguration Day, throughout the next presidential term, and onward into our country’s uncertain future.
We cannot merely argue; we cannot merely campaign; we cannot merely vote. We must actively sustain and defend the things we love—our cities and our counties, our churches and our temples, our schools and our businesses, our neighborhoods and our neighbors. The communities which have given us place, the people we’ve lived with and worked with, the solid things that have made us who we are, no matter how imperfect they have been and still are and always will be.
Let us commit, whatever happens, to put our country and our communities first; to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for each other. Let us commit to show in our own actions examples of kindness and humility and decency in a leaden time of troubles which will be starved of those good things, and flooded instead with rancor, anguish, and malice.
Both among our own friends and among our opponents, the angriest among us may well see the need to be less than charitable, and maybe worse, to their fellow Americans. If violence breaks out, let us stand against it whether it is committed by our fellow Americans with bad intentions or our fellow Americans with good intentions; if revenge be called for, against ourselves or against our enemies, let us counsel our countrymen to forgiveness and reconciliation. We of Braver Angels, with malice toward none, invite all Americans of goodwill to join us in taking a courageous stand for our union, for our republic, for our democracy, and for all its promise and potential for posterity and for ourselves, in this strangest and hardest of times. We must demonstrate in ourselves goodwill and decency, charity and humility, regardless of triumph or setback, stalemate or certainty; if we cannot show it in ourselves, to even the most vicious of our opponents, we cannot possibly expect our fellow Americans to show it either. We cannot possibly expect the American experiment to live on, if we cannot even fulfill the duties of citizenship to one another when things begin to fall apart.
Our country has been through these moments before, and they’ve made us what we are today. We still grapple with the legacies, for good and for ill, of the 1960s, the 1860s, the 1780s. And yet, we’ve remained a nation, through much sweat and many tears and sometimes blood, a nation blessed in its diversity and its liberty. Our generation of Americans, like many before us, has a rendezvous with destiny; to hold America together, to make more perfect our union, to expand our circle of justice, to honor the best of the past; and we can only do that if foremost in our minds are the stakes of the moment—that regardless who wins this election, regardless of how our fellow Americans in the other party react, regardless even of how the members of our own party react—that ultimately the destiny of the republic is bound up with how we, the American people, live and act and treat each other in victory and in defeat. If our leaders and our institutions cannot show us how to live together through challenges and tumults, we must roll up our sleeves and do it for ourselves.
For no electoral advantage proffered—no policy needle moved—no culture war question resolved—no possible prize any of us might win by intrigue and violence against our fellow Americans, is worth the real price it has charged and, should we succumb to our lesser demons, will continue to charge: our common trust further destroyed, our public life further fractured, our shared heritage and principles further debased, our enduring union further weakened. Many things in our politics are worth fighting for; we ought not forget the order and union that make fighting for them, and preserving them once won, possible in the first place.
We will never agree on many things; perhaps we will never agree on most things. We always have been, and always will be, a diverse and plural people, with all walks of life, all races and creeds and backgrounds represented among us, with many geographies and cultures bustling across our national hearth. We are diverse; we contain multitudes. In normal times, and even more, in the worst of times, that diversity of opinion becomes a cacophony. But at our best, when we live out the virtues of patriotic empathy for our fellow citizens of all persuasions, our raucous cacophony brings forth harmony in a glorious chorus of the union, and we Americans do great things for ourselves, for our neighbors, and for all posterity.
Again, we find ourselves in such a time, where the old question for Americans—whether human beings like ourselves might be capable of governing ourselves by reflection and choice, through selfless commitment to habits and institutions, or if we are forever condemned to the capricious rule of accident and force, through endless struggles for power and vengeance—is on the table. It is ours to answer, and may we answer it wisely. Let us act worthy of ourselves.
From our beloved community to yours, let us march forward together, and bind up the nation’s wounds.
Braver Angels invites all Americans to sign our open letter, “What We Will Do to Hold America Together,” ahead of the general election on November 3rd, 2020. It is available at this link.