There was sadness born out of shock and loss in the days and months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

We all felt a measure of fear for a time, wondering what was next — but then there was a coming together. We came together as one people against that atrocity.

Unfortunately, that feeling of togetherness we had after 9/11 only lasted for a short time. We’ve seen enough examples of domestic terrorism since — nine people shot to death at the Emanuel AME church in Charleston, four Marines killed at the armed forces career center in Chattanooga, 11 people killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and 21 killed in a Walmart in Texas. That’s not even mentioning horrific acts, like the Oklahoma City bombing, that happened prior to 2001.

Distilling the feeling behind those attacks, it has been fueled by one viewpoint: that we’re not all one people.

That theme has proliferated in daily life and been exacerbated by the current election cycle. We have all been put into certain categories — conservative, liberal, etc... The theme of this election has come down to one message — it’s “us” versus “them.”

There is no great enemy here. The idea is a manufactured division, stoked by political propaganda.

There is no “us” and there is no “them.” WE are all Americans.

Carving up our people into “us” versus “them” removes our ability to listen to the problems of our own fellow Americans with empathy.

WE are looking at our own people as the enemy and that’s just not the case. That which benefits “them” also benefits “us.”

Politicians or media voicing false propaganda and extreme doctrines in order to sow division are the ones WE should be concerned about. WE must address the division in our own country. WE must look for all the things we have in common with each other.

There may be groups who feel they have irreconcilable differences but it is just not true. Reconciliation is always an option.

WE have so many common cultural aspects that the only thing stopping the ability to find common ground is the unwillingness to look for it.

In the past couple months WE have been frustrated and angry. That pain has manifested in the form of protests — and the vast majority of those protests have been peaceful demonstrations. But from those who benefit from division, the hype has been strong.

A new breed of politicians and pundits have learned to project their own voices through social media and exploited that medium while those large, well-funded companies sat back and did nothing until very, very recently.

WE need to recognize that when some of us hurt — all of us hurt. WE need to recognize that when WE hurt each other WE are hurting ourselves.

People that push you toward division are trying to sell you something. In this case, politicians want you to show up at the polls to put or keep them in power.

For whatever reason, there are large groups of Americans who only show up to vote if they’re angry. Political charlatans have realized the more they can stoke that anger, the easier it is to get “us” to vote against “them.”

“Them” is a specter. It’s a conjured idea of something unAmerican and the grand wizards of all political persuasions are casting their propaganda nets via social media with skill and verve.

It is still up to you whether their machinations find purchase. Hate, the underlying will to commit terrorism, is fed by lies, conspiracies and disinformation.

This isn’t some grand conspiracy involving “deep state” actors or some silly letter designed to make keyboard warriors feel like they now have inside knowledge. This is all playing out right in front of us and WE have the capacity to sift manufactured foolishness from reality.

WE are all one among many. WE are all a part of this country and each have our part to play.

WE must realize that the needs and experiences of people who may not be in our identified group, while similar, are also very different.

WE should listen in order to understand. Only through understanding our fellow Americans can WE reconcile, and eventually celebrate, our differences.

It is the diversity of ability, spirit and background that makes this country great. WE need to recognize that and stop pandering to divisiveness.

Thank you for reading.

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