Opinion: In these dark times, unity is our only option

William Tong, Online Managing Editor & Editorial Editor

On Jan. 6, when the Congress of the United States of America was set to certify the 2020 presidential election results, Capitol Hill was stormed by domestic terrorists seeking to, with violent force, stop the formal process of choosing our next president. 

Windows and doors were broken down, the offices of our elected officials were robbed and people got hurt. Looking forward, the federal government will now have to make sure that among the computers, mail and documents looted, confidential intelligence isn’t released.

Congress must attempt to restore the dignity and sacredness that the Capitol beheld. Our nation must restore our place on the international stage after four years of being the laughingstock of the world. 

While those are heavy burdens our country is responsible for achieving after a tumultuous presidency, it’s not what I’m most worried about. Those issues are small compared to the biggest problems this failed coup is just the latest example of. 

Polarization in America is reaching deadly levels. Not only is partisanship so high that our Congress has let a dollar amount delay sending much needed stimulus checks to the American people, but among civilians, polarization has ballooned as well. Politico found that “The share of Republicans seeing substantial justification for violence if their side loses jumped from 15 percent in June to 20 percent in September, while the share of Democrats jumped from 16 percent to 19 percent.” 

There are more subtle signs of this polarization even among what could be considered more “rational” individuals. As Wednesday’s events unfolded, social media posts I saw weren’t filled with grief, but anger. People’s immediate reactions were to compare the lax enforcement by police of the Trump supporters with the brutal beatings police across the country dished out to protesters at Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.  Make no mistake: people should recognize that this differential treatment is appalling, unamerican, and must be done away with immediately, but mixed in with those opinions were an air of finality, that the other side was simply too far gone and the chance for negotiation had disappeared.  

More recently, many on the left have rejected calls for unity (and before you stop reading, I myself am liberal politically and socially). They claim that we cannot equivocate with our ideological rivals because of their xenophobic, racist, and bigoted actions. But keep in mind the golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated. Upstanding citizens should actively oppose the actions, not the people. We cannot, in good conscience, simply assume that all of the domestic terrorists are completely evil or completely stupid, lest we fall prey to the same base emotions that drove many of them to storm Capitol Hill. Not only is it morally wrong, it’s also a strategic blunder. To win a battle of clashing philosophies, we have no choice but to retain the moral high ground. 

Importantly, an unyielding attempt at unity is the sole path that can provide a win-win situation. Operating under the basis that the other side is misled that they fundamentally can’t change their opinions, we’d have no hope left. This chasm in our country would be permanently open and permanently enlarging. It is a matter of necessity to have faith in our fellow Americans, regardless of how crazy we might think they are.