United We Stand…

For as long as I can remember, I have been proud of my country, my homeland, and my liberty. I learned "The Star-Spangled Banner" in elementary school. Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" was my favorite song, at least until I heard "American Pie" by Don McLean. Fourth of July parades were always my favorite. My heart simply burst with pride every time I read the words "United We Stand!"

After September 11, 2001, this aphorism sprung up everywhere. It was printed on bumper stickers, splashed across billboards, even, ironically, painted as graffiti onto the sides of buildings. Even now, we see it every day, telling us that we are the greatest country on this planet because United We Stand.

More and more lately, however, I have been compelled to ponder the truthfulness of this statement.

United We Stand?

Give me a break.

Go back and read Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech and tell me this—does he call his opponents "warmongers" (as is John Kerry's opinion of Geroge Bush) or "flip-floppers" (as President Bush so delicately described Kerry in the last presidential election) or, indeed, any form of insulting, slanderous name?

No. In fact, he says of his opponents, "No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House." He understands that while he has different political views, theirs are worthy as well and he respects them.

We revere Patrick Henry as a national hero for his resounding speech and efforts on the behalf of our newly formed country, so why don't we follow his example? If one is smart enough to be in the presidential elections, then surely he must be a qualified, worthy opponent, a man (or woman) whose opinions must be well-thought out and well-researched, whose views and values are worthy of respect.

George Washington, in his Farewell Address, specifically warned us against divisions in the government: "The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness…"

Two sides of an argument are understandable—indeed, necessary to cause an argument—but we have taken this too far. With websites titled I Hate Republicans and Liberals Suck, how can we claim unity? Our country would be more aptly spilt into two and named "The Democratic States of America" and the "Republican States of America." Calling ourselves "The United States of America" is definitely ironic and even borders on hypocrisy.

If we lose respect for our opponents, we lose respect for our country, for our democracy, and for ourselves. We're all humans; none of us is worth more than any other. We cannot afford to be divided. In a world where everyone is looking to take advantage of everyone else, a single crack in our foundation can be our downfall. There are nations and people looking to exploit us at every turn, and we are too busy bickering amongst ourselves to notice. We have plenty of people who hate us, an excess of enemies; do we really need more? No? Then why are we making enemies of ourselves, of all people?

I do not ask that we abolish the political parties. I ask only that we learn to respect the other viewpoint, the other argument. I ask that we learn to be open to their reasoning. I ask that we learn to respect each other.

Then, only then, can we truly stand, with all fervor of spirit and in all candid honesty, and say, "United We Stand!"