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A house divided cannot stand

The narrative we have bombarded ourselves with is that we are a country that’s highly divided; that there are two opposing sides as to who we are and what we want for our future.  

As election ballots were processed, tallies starkly displayed a combative “red versus blue.” Political pundits pit whole groups of people as for this or against that based on exit polls. “Black women are fighting for ‘X’.” “White men are pushing for ‘Y’.”  

Perhaps division is necessary during the heat and vitriol election season. But now, it must end. We must remember that we are on the same team and occupy the same house. Indifference and hatred cannot live in the same place as love and compassion.

“A house divided cannot stand” is a declaration that has been made at critical times throughout human history. It first appeared in three gospels: Matthew 12:22, Mark 3:25, and Luke 11:13, as the words of Jesus Christ to a crowd of followers and detractors who disagreed about how to exert their religious and political beliefs.

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

Matthew 12:22

In 1858, it was famously evoked by Abraham Lincoln in a speech that argued for the end of slavery across the United States of America. While controversial when first delivered, the speech was said to become an impetus for Lincoln’s election as President.  

We must cease fixation on our disagreements and the choosing of enemies over allies. Such behavior is not what most of us intend.  

June 2020 survey conducted by More in Common found that: 

  • 96% agree that we should be Americans first, before being a Democrat, Republican, or Independent 
  • 94% agree that we need leaders who can bring Americans back together
  • 94% agree we need to treat each other with respect
  • 95% agree our system of justice should treat everyone equally

When asked what the country must focus, the number one priority chosen by Americans is that we should “become more united.” 

There is a lot more that unites us than divides us. We share a common fate—which must translate into common agendas for healthy children, strong schools, prosperous homes, safe communities, rewarding employment, robust businesses, clean air and water, and physical and emotional well-being. As Americans, we have inherited a collective responsibility to continue to seek a more perfect union that promises each of us liberty, justice, and opportunities to build prosperity. 

This year has reminded us all of historical harms in our country and has brought light to how they have been perpetuated. While we cannot fix the past, we must learn from it. The future isn’t finished, and we have a responsibility to our ancestors, our children, and our country’s future generations to shape it.  

As Rabbi Tarfon said:   

It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, 
but you are not free to desist from it either.  
Do not be arrogant; do not think that you alone can finish the job.  
Trust in your children and generations yet unborn to take up the task.  
Know that you are part of a living chain of people who have dreamed, worked for a better world and carried on this mission. 

Essentially, we are not required to complete the task of perfecting our country, but we must never abandon it.  

The work of uniting America starts at home. We must act with compassion, understanding, and love for our family members and neighbors. Even through our differences, recognize that the things we want for our children, ourselves, and our country are alike. Start from a place of shared values and ambitions. Reject hatred and division. Begin reconciliation near and stretch it far. 

My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all those who have unified to create a stronger Detroit where children thrive. You have fueled my conviction of what is possible for our country.  

With love, 

Tonya Allen 

Comments (3)

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  • Bill Brodhead

    That is not only a powerful message, but you have stated very beautifully

  • Thomas Cook

    Thank you for this. “Start from a place of shared values” is useful advice. How do we identify our shared values?

    Also, we all share in our dependence (clean water) and appreciation (green spaces) of nature. How do we build a community and society that is grounded, literally, in nature?


    Thank you for this word of reality and inspiration, Tonya. It has been a divisive year and month, but we can still choose our response to all of it and how we make the future brighter… and more united.

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