Over the past nearly four years of the President Trump administration, America has devolved into warring tribes – Black vs. white, rich vs. poor, urban vs. rural, Democrat vs. Republican, female vs. male and young vs. old, among others.

The president has done all in his power to personally profit politically from these divisions and to reverse as much as possible of the legacy of the president who preceded him, Barack Obama, even challenging his very legitimacy to serve as our highest elected official through the infamous “birther” incident. Now, he has even resurrected that painful and inflammatory issue in the case of the current vice presidential candidate, Kamala Harris. It is much more than coincidental, of course, that both of these targets of Mr. Trump are people of color.

In a recent New York Times article regarding the Democratic convention, journalist Peter Baker reported on a postmortem of the 2016 election in which Obama confided his doubts to a political aide, asking, “What if we were wrong? Maybe we pushed too far. Maybe people just want to fall back into their tribe.”

As a much younger student of history, I lived for three years in Ireland during another tumultuous period of its history, the 1970s, in which warring parties reverted back to tribal units, seeking shelter from change and the uncertainty and potential violence that change often brings with it. Catholic vs. Protestant, nationalist vs. unionist, Republican vs. Loyalist, north vs. south, people of property vs. the dispossessed, along with other divisions, all exposed deep divisions in that society that had festered unresolved for hundreds of years and that periodically broke out into intense tribal violence. Maine’s own senator, George Mitchell, played a major role in helping to ease the worst of this mistrust with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

Have all the old prejudices been eliminated by that treaty between formerly warring factions within Northern Ireland, or between the north and south of Ireland, or even between Ireland and the United Kingdom? No! But two leaders, one from each of its main communities, did earn the Nobel Prize for Peace, and a framework now exists to move forward.

America is at such a crossroad today. Anyone who has experienced tribal or ethnic/racial hatred and violence realizes how very fragile a democracy can be, and how easily mistrust and divisiveness can plunge even a mature democracy such as ours into turmoil.

It is time for us to move beyond hatred and bullying and the sowing of seeds of separation that have all been the hallmark of this Trump administration. It’s time to give new leadership in the form of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris a chance to bring us back from the precipice and to bring civility and respect back to the White House.

Will they be a panacea for all that ails us, and will Trumpism automatically evaporate overnight along with the possible political demise of its namesake? Probably not. But at least in the first month of the new year of 2021, with so many great national and international issues of high importance to be addressed, this country could have a new burst of energy and hope and a leadership that could regain respect and support both at home and around the globe.

Enough of tribalism. Enough of hatred and bullying and partisanship. With a new president and vice president, and hopefully also a new Senate majority leader, the American people will have spoken. If they do, as I believe they will, it will be up to the political class to decide whether to ignore and obstruct the will of the people or to work collectively to make the United States a more perfect union as our Constitution has directed us to do.


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