We’re oneBut we’re not the sameWe hurt each otherThen we do it …
But we’re not the same
We hurt each other
Then we do it again
— U2, “One”
I don’t know whether New York Times mega-columnist Thomas Friedman reads The River Reporter, so I have to assume that it was mere coincidence that his column of February 25 struck a note very similar to my own column from last month, suggesting that the Democrats should use a radically inclusive “team of rivals” approach in the upcoming presidential election and campaign as an entire Cabinet.
But Biden’s resurgence and Bernie’s lukewarm showings since then have made such an outcome much less likely, and rekindled calls for progressives and social Democrats to abandon their Quixotic quest for a Sanders nomination and line up obediently behind Biden for the sake of something called “party unity.”
But what does that mean, exactly? In our domination-obsessed culture, where there has to always be “winners” and “losers,” it seems to mean that the insurgents should meekly accept their fate and not make any trouble. Folks will trot out the old fable about the four squabbling brothers, and how their father demonstrates the power of unity by having them try to break a bound bundle of sticks, as opposed to breaking them one at a time.
The only problem with that chestnut is that the word for such a bound bundle is fasces, from which comes our word “fascism.” A bound bundle may be tougher to break, but it is also much less flexible.
It also burns better.
But there are many kinds of unity and many ways to think about it. A box of crayons, for example, holds many different colors together in one container without sacrificing any color’s uniqueness. There are culinary models, from gumbo to tossed salads to pizza. The metaphorical “melting pot” was for many years promoted as an American ideal, but has (deservedly, in my opinion) fallen out of favor in recent times.
(To take a slight tangent: the “melting pot “was supposed to represent some kind of overall “American culture,” but one doesn’t have to travel far to see that the idea of such a uniform monoculture is an illusion. Yes, there are McDonald’s everywhere, but there are also a wide variety of regional and local cultures. When people say that folks coming to the United States should “learn to be American,” what kind of “American” do they mean? Kansans? Texans? Californians? Augusta, Maine, or Augusta, Georgia?)
Unity comes, I think, not from trying to eradicate differences, but by celebrating them, along with reaffirming the things that do bring us together. Let me suggest that one of the things that could unify the Democrats—and by extension, all Americans—is an acceptance of diversity as not just a reality, but also a strength.
If we can’t accomplish that, if that seems to be too hard, then the coronavirus has something else to tell us about unity that might help: The ultimate unity for us to keep in mind—our greatest common factor—is our mortality.
But we’re not the same
We get to carry each other
Carry each other...