Having read through Mr. Colborne's recent assessment of American politics and culture, I am sympathetic to his alignment with Neitzsche's note on God and the subtext that democracy cannot function if there are separate realities within its institution. It seems as if the schism of reality bore itself out on Jan. 6, when Congress was overrun for the first time since 1812, not by a foreign country, but by domestic terrorists with ties to Q-anon and the Proud Boys — the dark product of lies and conspiracies spread on Facebook and Twitter, inspired by our former president's blatant lies.
The modern campaign infrastructure of our country, from federal to state to the local level, seems to be running on a constant cycle with little to no swell for the practice of governance. Campaigns paint opponents as enemies of the state. And it is occurring amid the worst global pandemic in generations, where more than 600,000 people in the United States have perished.
The concept of America isn't just dicey. It has always been the subject of generational struggles over what makes for a better future. Those clashes reveal our differences.
In recent decades, the civil rights movement, the battle with AIDS in the LGBTQ+ community, the Standing Rock Sioux's fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the post-Ferguson criminal justice movement come to mind. But there always have been segments of the population that have struggled for better laws and more rights, and have done so at times and in ways that their mere existence seemed anti-American to, well, other Americans. Many who have fought for justice have been said to be un-American and widely outside the norm.
I grew up in a well-to-do suburb of Cleveland — Moreland Hills, nestled near one of the U.S. communities with the highest number of Jews outside of Israel. Yet 10 miles north of me were Euclid and East Cleveland — completely different worlds marred by decades of racist public policy. Same city, very different worlds; and with policies they and numerous other cities still are struggling to undo. When I was deputy field and data director for a campaign in Ohio, there were innumerable instances in which organizers would be followed or harassed by police just for knocking on doors in predominantly white neighborhoods while being Black.
The concept of not sharing one idea of America is not new, then, nor is the reality of being uncomfortable living in America because of those differences. It's good to see Mr. Colborne recognizes this and the problems it surfaces; however, it doesn't mean the concept of America really is dead.
One of the few instances in which the ideological struggle and related uncomfortableness has happened pretty much nationwide is brought to us by COVID-19 shining a light into many dark cracks. Our public health system, healthcare system, education system and social media ecosystems have exposed fatal problems. And it has thrown people into a perpetual state of discomfort, where evolving science on a deadly virus furthers distrust of the very institutions whose role is fundamental to helping us.
Fear of our differences and the reasons for them keep us each locked in a reality that seems to be a complete universe, separate from those of others. But we all must work through this painful and uncomfortable time. The easiest way to deepen America's divide is to stay rooted in all of this pain, worry, fear and insecurity.
I do agree with Mr. Colborne on the power of the dollar to help mend things. Investment is much needed. It is a tool to help prevent, and to heal, and it is why we need to implore our leaders to act accordingly. It is why public comment for using the American Rescue Plan dollars for Nevada — and the “listening tour” Treasurer Zach Conine and Gov. Steve Sisolak are on — is critical. (It should go without saying that no company or organization should be accepting money from domestic terrorist organizations like Q-anon or The Proud Boys. We cannot ignore the passive acceptance by some of fascist white nationalists in our midst.) It is simply not enough to say we made it through this mess. We must invest, do better, fight the cancer of hatred, and grow.
In closing, just because I disagree with the claim that America is dead doesn't mean our country's vitals are okay. No fewer than 147 federally elected Republicans voted to overturn the 2020 election results. Our democratic institutions are in the ICU, and it will take a combination of significant structural changes and collective willpower to improve them. It will also require protecting the right to vote, making voting even more accessible to every American, and securing elections from misinformation fueled by foreign influence. America will indeed be dead if we do not protect free and fair elections.
In the words of Rep. John Lewis, "Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society."
Adrienne Michelson is a democratic data analyst and political strategist with seven years of experience. She previously worked at democratic data startup Alloy as a senior partnership analyst, for Warren For President as the Nevada data director, and with For Our Future PAC in Ohio as a deputy field and data Director.