I fear the divide in our nation is so deep that common ground has become uncommon ground and so I came up with a pledge to which I challenge all elected officials, political appointees, and other leaders to commit—publicly.
1. I will not paint with a broad brush stroke those with whom I disagree politically (all conservatives aren’t white supremecists and all liberals aren’t socialists or Marxists).
2. I commit not to vilifying those with whom I disagree; if I am a Democrat for example, I will not assert that Republicans/Libertarians are evil; and likewise, if I am a Republican I will not assert wickedness of Democrats/Democratic Socialists.
3. I will work with my traditional opponents to achieve solutions; this work will engage conversations that begin with and stem from points of agreement/compromise and I will not begin dialogue with complete disagreement (and if an ultimate decision cannot be made jointly, at least common ground was prioritized).
4. I will not automatically assign ulterior/nefarious motives to those with whom I disagree (because I disagree with someone does not necessarily mean they seek to harm—or discriminate against — a particular population or group).
5. I will recognize and concede the successes(es) of those outside my political or social circles — before disagreeing with the entirety of their platform (I think we can agree it was pretty spectacular that Trump didn’t get us into any more foreign wars and that Biden’s rhetoric will be less abrasive)
6. I understand that absolute and total disagreement with a particular group and subsequent vilification of them makes it much easier (and justifiable to some) for that group to be attacked brutally — on social, political, and physical levels (a precipice we have surpassed all too often of late)
7. I will apply 3 principles to everything I speak, post on social media, etc.: is it necessary, is it kind, and is it true?
8. If I believe someone’s facts are not in order I will ask them how they arrived at such fact(s) and give them a chance to respond before calling them a liar.
9. If I truly disagree with someone’s ideas/rhetoric/political perspective, I will invite them to share why they believe what they do before declaring they are wrong.
10. I recognize that political rhetoric should be civil and I will admonish—publicly, if necessary — those with whom I align politically/socially that deviate from the above pledges.
Political parties first emerged during the struggle over ratification of the federal Constitution of 1787. They created platforms around shared interests and, at that time, it was possible and acceptable to find common ground across platforms. It is no wonder that our first president was against such party alignments as he wisely saw the worst case scenario in political party evolution. Who would have ever guessed that if you are Republican, you must demonize Democrats, and vice versa. Who would have thought that if you supported Trump’s economic policies you must be against all women’s right-to-choose scenarios ... or that if you support Biden’s more progressive pathway to citizenship that you must be for late-term abortions.
Maybe it’s the military veteran in me that was trained to support and defend the constitution — and not one party or the other — that facilitates my ability to identify the good in all political candidates as well as their imperfections.
Because I support one candidate/official does not mean I disagree with—or hate—the others.
It also means that I don’t ever find myself agreeing with everything one candidate/official promotes. Over the past several years I have gone from believing this was a majority perspective, to feeling quite isolated.
As a result, I drafted a simple, benign series of pledges that, if made by many, could help us move back to a more peaceful, congenial rhetoric that will let our children and grandchildren sleep at night (my own 11-year-old daughter fears a Civil War is brewing).
I pray this becomes a movement that gains traction and speed—and reaches a point where those that have not endorsed/committed to it publicly are the only ones vilified.
As a wounded warrior with progressive, potentially fatal series of conditions I’d live to leave this world knowing that the uncommon becomes common again.
ERIC B. JOHNSON, JR., MPSA, CPS, CHEP, CEM
Corps Officer (2002-2011)
Senior Medical Planner
for NATO, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM/