We often romanticize the past, as if the world was perfect then and partisan divides were absent. But even our Founding Fathers had to compromise with one another, especially as they wrote and ratified the Constitution, which was designed to generate moderation and guide our country steadily into the future as one united people.
This presidential election cycle has revealed and exacerbated divides within our country, especially between urban and rural populations. I have seen far too many people withdraw into echo chambers on social media and in real life, cutting off those with dissenting views and perpetuating the growing divide. I have heard far too many people accost the grieving, alienating those in need of support and affirming that very rift. I would wager that no group — Democrat, Republican or other — wants to foster division, but most do facilitate its growth.
I am not saying that we have to agree upon everything. But as divides continue to grow, mistrust and anger increasingly permeate our country, generating a feedback loop of fear. Unfortunately, that fear only causes stagnation within our political system, which creates a faulty sense of comfort due to the certainty it entails. If nothing ever happens, we can maintain our sense of routine, be it advocating for change or resisting it.
I know I am guilty of this trap.
Yet, it is terrifying and frustrating to see political parties play into the certainty of fear by only enacting reform when they have complete control of the government. It paralyzes us. If we follow our current trajectory and continue to look to the past, each party will keep repealing the other’s decisions when they come to power. If that is the case, why not just sit on our hands and do nothing? Should we not work together, as Americans, to overcome fear and find reasonable compromises, so real change that meets the needs created by our changing world can occur?
Nostalgia makes it seem like we live in a frightening period; it can appear that a reversion to the past is the best option for our country — an imagined past where sunset industries re-emerge or where parents are certain that their children will have a better life than they did. Nostalgia corrupts the reality of the past, playing into the fear of the future. It ignores all the progress we have made since then and the future that we can have. It is not possible to return to the past, but if we work together and find compromise, we can create an even more prosperous future for all Americans.
When I decided to write this piece before the election, I was absolutely certain about the future and what I would write — that we should overcome partisan divides and embrace our history of compromise. However, like many of my peers after the election, I felt complete emptiness and despair. I thought to myself: Why should I write a piece about compromise and unity when it appears as though all is forsaken? Here is the thing, though: compromise is not about always getting what we want. It is about sacrifice and finding solutions with the hand we have been dealt, especially when it is far less than ideal.
While we live in a world that looks different each day, harking to the past, out of fear, will not solve the problems of tomorrow. We must make sacrifices and come together to do the work that needs to be done. If your candidate won, take a victory lap, but remember, as Americans, we should always seek to help and support each other in difficult times. If you are grieving, like myself, take the time you need to heal, but remember that there is work to be done: We must dust ourselves off and get back into the arena. The challenges facing our nation are not insurmountable, but compromise is and was never easy, not even for the Founding Fathers.
Benjamin Nadolsky is a junior in Saybrook College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .