The Not So United States

As I write this from my home in Santiago, Chile, I can't help but notice the obvious. The United States of America is not so United.

Of course, for anyone who has been paying attention, this outcome has been in the making for quite some time. Divided politically, socially, and economically, it currently appears we are a fractured country with no hope of being repaired.

I say that not to paint a pessimistic view of the future but rather accept the harsh reality in which we currently find ourselves.  Without accepting the hand dealt, working to improve the country's sense of spirit will be all but impossible.

What is the cause of all this division? Can we ever truly unite again? Was there ever true unity to begin with, or was that always pie in the sky mirage? Can we become united with a new face in office?

While I don't have all the answers and acknowledge the complexity of our world today, I wanted to take a moment to share a few of the reasons I think we are so divided. I believe there are several steps we must take to move past our differences and come together as one.

Inability to have difficult discussions

I've personally never been a fan of conflict. So much so that growing up, I would often let a handful of tiny annoyances boil over to the point of a massive explosion. Instead of dealing with conflict when it was minor, I would secretly hope the issue would resolve itself. Of course, I quickly learned that rarely actually happened. Running away from discomfort now doesn't make it go away; it often makes it stronger.

Right now, our country is behaving like I did, before I was able to grow my patchy Asian beard. We're acting like a child unable to have those much-needed adult conversations.

The reality is, we're embarking on a 1,000-mile trek and starting with a small pebble in our shoe. We're so afraid to talk openly and honestly; it's created pockets of the extreme.

Healthcare. Racism. Inequality. Abortion. Capitalism. Religion. Education. You have your opinion, and I have mine. Some of these issues affect you and your loved ones personally, and with others, you have the privilege of watching unfold from afar.

Our inability to have adult conversations makes progress and change incredibly difficult. We can't make meaningful change if we're too afraid to confront the messiness of truth. Simple disagreement has turned to nasty attacks on one's character. Listening has been replaced by increasing the volume.

Comfort has made us soft. Some of my most insightful conversations came not during the actual discussion itself but coming back to the table after the smoke and rage had cleared.

Difficult conversations are precisely that, difficult. But just as going to gyms after years of hiatus can be challenging, pushing through that discomfort can lead to some pretty remarkable gains.

For us to work towards a better future, we must be willing to embrace the uncomfortable. We can't shy away from those conversations that are most certainly going to sting.

We must speak up when we feel wronged. We must speak up for those without a voice. We must stand for our principles, even when, especially when the consequences may be both scary and great. Disagreement in itself is not a sin. It's an opportunity to find common ground.

We can't stand to stay silent in exchange for the illusion of security and comfort.

We stopped caring about the truth

Perhaps one of the most disturbing developments in recent memory is our collective move away from embracing the truth.

We're so desperate to one-up one another, we mold and twist every situation and outcome to fit our story. And for what? To show the world we are right? To say, "I told you so?" To falsely position ourselves as morally superior?

This goes beyond the tired and trite "fake news" narrative. It's deeper than what we can see on the surface.

Truth is truth. Just as we sometimes don't like the person we've become when looking in the mirror, as a nation, we're not immune to imperfections. Any reasonable adult can conclude we're not perfect. But what we do after acknowledging the fact is was determines our fate moving forward.

Embracing truth means sitting with it, even when it doesn't fit your preconceived notion of how you want the world to work. What are you willing to change your mind on? Are you willing to admit you may be wrong? Are you open to seeing those blind spots that scare you?

Not every situation fits neatly into a single narrative. Humans and society as a whole are complicated and complex. What's obvious and true to you, may not be obvious and true to many. But we can't find the truth without seeking it. You have to want to see the world and our country for what it is.

It's more important than ever to question the story you're being sold. Question the story you're crafting with your pen. It requires self-reflection and facing those demons you so desperately wish to ignore.

The more we can align on the importance of truth, the better. When searching for truth, you empower yourself to change. You put the ball in your court. You give yourself permission to improve, falter, and take yet another step towards growth.

We must not be afraid to change our minds. To reconsider. To hear the stories we never knew existed. We must hold ourselves accountable, both in our actions and our words.

Truth is the foundation of unity we chase.

We've lost our sense of purpose

Most of us are grinding through our daily existence without a true sense of purpose. We're simply doing what we can to survive. On the surface, survival is a reasonable goal in itself, but living for you and you alone always leads to a hollow destination.

After the conclusion of World War II, many Americans reported significantly increased levels of unhappiness and depression. Imagine that. One of the world's most horrific wars came to an end, and people reported they were MORE unhappy.

Why is that? One theory is that during World War II, there was a sense of community and belonging. Moral optics aside, there was a clear goal for everyone to rally behind — defeat the enemy.

Compare that to now, when even a global pandemic has left us more increasingly divided. Of course, that isn't to say the solution is to start World War III, rather society as a whole would benefit from a sense of purpose outside of ourselves. Fighting for those that need a hand—making sacrifices for the better good.

Though many Americans no longer consider themselves religious, there's no denying the unity that religion can provide. We must move beyond focusing only on ourselves. We must move beyond apathy and inaction. We must work towards bettering our country through sharing our gifts and talents with the world.

We criticize instead of create

It's incredibly easy to point everything wrong with the United States. Many of those observations are valid and justified. And while criticism can sometimes lead to change, it's not enough.

We would fare far better as a country if we spent less time criticizing and more time creating. Standing on the sidelines doesn't actually create a new reality; it amplifies what is already there. If we want to transform our society, we must be willing to put in the work.

Stop being a "keyboard warrior" and instead ensure you're putting skin in the game. Criticism and feedback are fine as long as they are backed by movement.

We've become the society that laughs and bullies the overweight person going to the gym. We've become the society that finds the one flaw instead of highlighting the 10 things we've done right. It starts with how we view ourselves internally and projects into the rest of our way of life.

It's easy to criticize. It's far more challenging to create and improve.

We forgot how to forgive

One of the many downsides of social media and our always-on culture, is we have lost the ability to grow and change in private.

Growing up, I said many things that I cringe at today. I've done many things I'm not proud of. Fortunately, I was able to learn from those periods of my life with little consequence. Any truthful adult will admit the same.

The issue, however, is as more children and teens grow up online, they don't have that privilege. They are judged by who they were at 16, not who they are at 20. Reformed individuals continue to be haunted by their past. We've become a society that happily ruins a person's life for who they were a decade ago, rather than acknowledge the person they are now.

Cancel culture is a loaded term, and for a good reason. But it doesn't help anyone to forgo the act of forgiveness when it is the most reasonable and intelligent course to take.

That isn't to say we should not hold people accountable. That isn't to say we can't hold our family, friends, and neighbors to a high standard. But forgiveness is an essential part of growth, both personally and as a society. We need more forgiveness, not less.

Of course, there are certainly more factors at play, something I hope to expand on further in future posts.

But for now, I know this. Things are dark. Things are scary. Many days are emotionally draining.

And yet despite the challenge that stands before us, we continue to have the next move.

For things to get better in the United States and around the world, we must work towards embracing the truth. We must get used to being uncomfortable. And we must know that it's never too late to start a new chapter.

Difficult but doable.