It certainly doesn’t seem like we can put faith in the media or political parties, and unfortunately, a growing number of Americans say that they no longer trust each other either. In a world that is as divided and self-righteous as ours currently is, this should come as no surprise. In essence, we are experiencing a significant decline in national unity which is perhaps the greatest threat to our nation both domestically and globally. This level of division offers opportunities for our adversaries to cause strife around the globe that under normal circumstances would warrant a U.S. response that now might be impossible as a result of our national division. Furthermore, it already seems to be allowing domestic militant and extremist groups to incite racial tensions and violence that further divides us. Being divided as a nation is dangerous. It leaves us open to attack from internal and foreign sources which may be the greatest threat to the wellbeing of our nation.

According to the Pew Research Center, “Americans think the public’s trust has been declining in both the federal government and in their fellow citizens. Three-quarters (75%) of Americans say that their fellow citizens’ trust in the federal government has been shrinking, and 64% believe that about peoples’ trust in each other.” We are a nation that has been built by our unified strength and our once unified voice. Sadly, in today’s America, there is not a single voice calling for unity for all. Instead, over and over we continue to see multiple voices calling for unity among their respective camps. As a result, we’ve become a nation of many tribes, each working against one other. We’ve become everything Abraham Lincoln warned against, in his famous “House Divided” speech when he accepted the Illinois Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate when he stated, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The government also plays a significant role in this division and it seems that most Americans aren’t letting the government get away unscathed. According to the same Pew Research study, “About seven-in-ten Americans (71%) think people are less confident in each other than they were 20 years ago.”

Anxiety and tensions among America’s citizens are at an all-time high which causes further distrust among groups and fertilizes the fields of discord. This is then exacerbated by racial tensions and ideological shifts that have become more apparent on both political sides, particularly in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police in Minneapolis. For so long, the United States has been the world’s greatest stable force for freedom and democracy around the globe. While that status currently remains, it is at a weaker point than any other period in modern history. In fact, some might see this as a perfect opportunity to exploit America’s vulnerability, and by not correcting the problems within our country, we are all but inviting such exploitation by our enemies.

When I was a kid growing up, I always understood that despite our differences, we all held one thing in common, that we were Americans first and foremost and nothing came before that: not religion, not political ideology, not skin color and not sexual orientation. Tragically, however, that sentiment appears to be a foreign concept when assessing today’s set of challenges and issues. Could it be that we have failed a generation of Americans who have absolutely no appreciation for the past, both good and bad? Or is it that we ourselves, the elders, have failed those who came before us? Whatever the case may be, the question of who we can and who we must trust should always be simple. We must put our faith and trust in God and in one other. We must know that when things become difficult we are able to look to our spiritual father as well as our fellow Americans for support.

Despite how bleak things might appear, there is light at the end of the tunnel; 84% of Americans believe things can change, which means that despite this dark and challenging moment, there are millions among us who still believe in America and all that she stands for. This reality is perhaps even more important than the current challenges themselves. The value system we maintain is so great and so strong that people believe that the government and society will be and can be what we make it if we work towards that common aim. You see, that is what being American guarantees for all of us: a better future if we’re willing to put in the difficult work, together, as Americans.

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