Too many Americans go through life without empathy for – or even curiosity about – the lives of their fellow countrymen who live in different places, with different backgrounds.
Economic disparities are becoming wider. The traditional media, which helped bind us in a common conversation, is imploding, while partisan online replacements explode in number. Social media and online comments let us spew bile without facing each other. Political identity is replacing values that we once considered more important – like faith and responsibility to our family and neighbors. We are self-selecting our way into multiple nations, which frequently are bitterly at odds.
The answer might be universal national service – not just the military, but community service of all kinds. Our military is one of the very few institutions where the American melting pot still exists. The important thing is that everyone has to do it, in a pluralistic American society where no one is better or different, and no one rides for free.
We have to knit our country back together. It will take a little tolerance and civility and respect. It will take a lot of empathy. And just maybe, it will take another 97 days of listening to Donald Trump to remind us of what we don’t want to be.