On America’s Independence Day, it’s worth considering the role of trust and distrust.
Distrust caused the British government to pass laws to better control its colonies.
Distrust caused a political contest to turn into a shooting war.
Trust allowed the various states to come together.
Trust allowed the Americans to grant George Washington the power to fight that war…and Washington repaid that trust by preventing a mutiny by his underpaid, underappreciated army.
One of my wishes for my country is that its various factions find ways to trust each other…and live up to that trust.
When we don’t trust each other, opposing sides become extremists.
To me, this is clearest when it comes to the issue of gun control, but the same applies to abortion.
In the case of gun control, the pro-gun-ownership forces try to fight almost any regulation, fearing that any compromise will eventually lead to gun confiscation.
In the case of abortion, the pro-abortion forces try to fight any restriction on abortion, fearing that any compromise will weaken Roe v. Wade and lead to prohibition.
The same dynamic applies to the opposite side of both these issues.
I think that many, if not most Americans, like me, would prefer compromise to extremism. But the more the opposing sides distrust each other, the more extreme their rhetoric and actions, the more they distrust each other, the more intractable the problem becomes.
I don’t believe that polarization inevitably increases. In American history, we have often been at loggerheads, including the Civil War, but we have always come back together. As we celebrate Independence Day, I think a worthy way to honor those who have fought and sacrificed for our freedom is to try to build a nation that they would want their heirs to live in, rather than engaging in behavior that ends up trying to pull it apart.