We are at a difficult time in our nation’s history, my friends. You and I, we’ve have been close over the years, and we’ve been through a lot together. But as close as we have been in so many ways, politically we are worlds apart. And that’s a shame. It’s also the problem.

You disagree with me politically, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing. Because that is what America is all about. And it’s where the discussion should begin. If we could only talk to each other, and share our ideas, we might learn from each other, things that could make our own opinions richer and more relevant, and our future conversations easier and far more interesting.

But you stopped talking to me. You said that somehow I had become something abhorrent – you said I had aligned myself with white supremacists and racists and how could that have happened. 

How long have you known me? So many years! And yet you somehow think that my whole worldview has suddenly shifted one hundred and eighty degrees, that my views are now hateful, and that you can no longer talk to me. Civil conversation between us is somehow not possible anymore. And suddenly I went from being your dear friend to a hateful demon – in one broad stroke of the political brush.

And all this because I am a conservative and because I support our President.

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Today, only days after the horrific murders in El Paso and Dayton, the country is more divided and the rhetoric is nastier and uglier than ever. Do you really believe that everyone who supports the President is a racist and a white supremacist? That’s just plain wrong. And it’s dangerous.

By painting those, with whom you disagree, with such a broad and indiscriminate brush, your opponents, as you see them, become cartoon characters, depersonalized, inhuman, and ultimately, the enemy, the epitome of evil. Then, inevitably, the dialogue becomes rhetoric, which deteriorates into name-calling, which ultimately devolves into violence, which – very possibly – could lead us all into civil war.

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But wait! Stop!

This is America! We have freedom of expression, freedom of speech. It is guaranteed to us by our Constitution. We are allowed – even encouraged – to disagree. We are free to have different opinions and that’s why we have debates and free elections. It’s why, for more than two centuries, we have been able to argue over politics and policies, and then go to the polls and elect our government.

And then, when the campaigns are all over, we vote, and when the race is decided, we accept the results of the election, and allow, when the voters have chosen it, the peaceful transition of power. And we go back to all just being Americans again.

We let our government do its work. And if it does its work well, then we are more or less happy. And if they don’t, well, every two or four or six years, we go back to the polls and try to change it.

For the most part, that’s worked pretty well for the last couple of hundred years. Only now, it seems to have stopped working.

And if you stop talking to me because I don’t agree with you, then the process actually breaks down, and the conversation stops altogether. The creative process of government by the people and for the people stops. And the wonder that has made America e pluribus unum – one out of many – for more than two centuries begins to fall apart. 

Today, the left and right are at loggerheads. Worse. The left is holding the right responsible for mass murder. And the right is accusing the left of going completely off the rails. There is an epidemic of violence running rampant throughout the country and instead of Americans coming together, as we have always done, to fight this evil together, we are fighting each other – viciously.

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But listen. Now more than ever, it is time for us all to come together and fight for the America that made us who we are. That’s America as it should be.

We need to communicate, we need to cooperate. We need to find a level space and meet in the middle. It’s okay to do that. It’s more than okay. It’s essential, before we reach the point of no return and we cannot find our way back.

Freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, these are the hallmarks of our liberty and the keys that open the doors to the free discussion of important issues. It is only through open dialogue that we can arrive at creative and workable solutions to the difficult problems that have created this toxic divide.

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So talk to me. Let’s have a conversation. Let’s not avoid the things that have created this terrible chasm between us, but let’s talk about them.

A few ground rules will help. Let’s define the triggers. Let’s list them, and then let’s avoid them. No name-calling. No triggering labels. No bold generalities that aren’t backed up by facts.

Instead, let’s just talk about the things that bother us. And then, let’s try to get beyond them.

I worry about where our country is going. And I don’t want to be a part of it.

And, in case you didn’t know, I miss you. Let’s get together and talk. It’s time.