Seeing Ourselves in One Another


One solution to America’s political polarization, our national preoccupation with resentment of “differences” – historically our strength – is to look inward, where truth dwells. Rather than class warfare, racism, identity politics, consider the alternative, seeing ourselves in each other.

What am I talking about? About what the Founding Fathers believed, directed, and meant by “all men are created equal,” epic words in our Declaration of Independence.

I am talking about post-Civil War America’s “doubling down” with “equal protection of the laws” in our 14th Amendment, codifying Lincoln’s executive order, the Emancipation Proclamation.

I am talking about Theodore Roosevelt’s resolve that no political party would intimidate or diminish his belief in the individual, respect for all regardless of race, station, or power.

Republican TR took a different view on race from Democrat Woodrow Wilson. To TR, each person was a God-given soul, all his own and equal, deserving respect that fact commands.

While excoriated by opponents, TR was the first president to invite an African American to the White House, had a lifetime friendship with Booker T. Washington, who founded the Tuskegee Institution.

TR implored Americans to honor individuality, not group identity, saying a “wise and honorable and Christian” person treats all individuals with respect. He defended Minnie Cox, the first Black female postmaster, appointed Black Americans to high office, never quit those core convictions.

Wrote TR: “I cannot consent to take the position that the door of hope – the door of opportunity – is to be shut upon any man, no matter how worthy, purely upon the grounds of race or color.”

Convinced – before his wife, Edith – women deserved all America promised, he championed the 19th Amendment, women’s right to vote. Centering tenet:  Individual liberty and opportunity.

A focus on an equal opportunity, judging all men by the “content of their character,” animated Martin Luther King. He opposed the opposite, hatreds and the social spiral of racial separation.

King’s idea was to make America’s promise real, not by separation into feuding groups, not by pitting races against each other, but honoring the individual – seeing ourselves in each other, recognizing each other by “the content of our character” not by varying skin types.

That aspiration has long resonated a powerful idea: Put labels aside, see truth as truth, have discernment, exercise power to distinguish between material and immaterial differences.

To do this is hard for humans. It calls out wisdom, not comfort in sameness, default to “group think,” forgetting groups are made up of individuals, each able to think for himself or herself, ultimately able to make choices and transcend tribal prejudices, if we encourage that.

Shakespeare may be the touchstone, confirming that – at our best – we can see the individual, can understand he is not the group, not the tribe, not the label – but is a separate, equal soul.

What happens in Romeo and Juliet? What does Juliet say to Romeo, the archrival family? “Tis but thy name that is my enemy …”  She knows there is nothing in the name or group. “It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man.”

She says: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  What Shakespeare knows – is that hearts bind to hearts, not groups to groups. Societal wounds heal through the power of individual resolve, an extend hand, not more tribal tropes.

No wonder, 35 years ago this week, President Ronald Reagan made “the rose” America’s National Flower. “More than any other flower, we hold the rose dear as a symbol of life and love and devotion, of beauty and eternity …” It grows in all States, was cultivated by Washington, rings the Rose Garden where Americans gather as “one.”

We are – oddly enough – each “a rose by any other name,” all different by shade, shape, and character, yet all the same. If there is a solution to polarization, it is smelling that rose, understanding that fact.

We gain nothing by teaching children racial resentment, preoccupation with what we are not, breaking ourselves into groups, using ideological cover; we gain everything by seeing ourselves in one another.

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10 months ago

We are all God’s children and have the same color blood. If we only lived according to GOD’S standards, there wouldn’t be a problem. Simple. If you disagree, just read the book.

anna hubert
10 months ago

Unfortunately we now have a whole industry that sprang from perpetuating the voluntary misery of a segment of population that prefers to live in captivity of helplesness and dependency

Philip Hammersley
10 months ago

ALL DIMM leaders suffer from the same ailment: grandiosity. Only THEY know what is good for you. You don’t know how to raise your kids or spend your money. You don’t worship the god of secularism. You are–in a word– deplorable!

10 months ago

Mr. Charles: And you did it again. You have expressed my sentiments exactly and so beautifully. How did I know that you were the autho of this so true and meaningful missive? By the title soI had to read what you wrote. Why was I taught all about Shakespeare in grade school and why do I so believe that he wrote for all times? Because he had such insight into both good and evil? My litle brither and I put on the play Romeo and Juliet when we were youngsters with the “kids” in the neighborhood. I found the written play in my mother,s stuff after she had died. She had written on the side that the “neighbors who had attended the play almost fell out of their seats laughing” as we had done it as a comedy. Now, the woke culture tries to take Shakespeare out of the libraries, schools etc.? We were allowed to really have a childhood and now the children are so assaulted with this divisional drivel they will not have any childhood to remember ina positive way. My husband just turned 83 this month and he is so messed up now with what to do with his life because of what the communuist regime did to him when he was living under the control of lenin in east germany. I will stop and let others I hope comment on your wonderful writing. Thank you all for letting me expound on this. Carol

10 months ago
Reply to  Carol

Carol, Thank you – on many levels. Please also note that, beyond the goodness of your story, I spent time behind the Iron Curtain, helping the resistance in Poland, time also in E Germany, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Soviet Union. Please tell your husband, now 83, that the human spirit is resilient, even in the face of enormous evil. We know this, and we know it best by faith in a loving God. America, with the help of those who know the reverse, will preserve the rights we all so highly value – if we will only recall how precious they are. He and you know. With gratitude and high regard – RBC

10 months ago

A lesson for the ages and all of mankind–one taught by Jesus Christ and, one which if forgotten or disregarded, will end in the destruction of the world.

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