In northwestern Wisconsin, near exit 135 on highway 53 South, there is a billboard with a large American flag painted on it above the words "United We Stand." I believe the billboard was put up a few years ago while the Bush administration was in office, and presumably signaled to those who opposed the actions of the previous president, that in a time of war we should put aside our theoretical differences and unite against a common enemy.
As I passed by the sign on my way to Eau Claire the other day, I thought about the irony of it. We are still facing many of the same problems we were facing when President Bush was in office. The war in Iraq drags on. Osama bin Laden is still at large. And we are now mired in the worst recession in nearly a century, arguably brought on by the same type of laizzez faire economics that caused the Great Depression. But do conservatives now want to work with the president and democrats in congress? Do they put aside their theoretical differences for the good of the country? No. On the contrary, they have staunchly opposed practically every initiative brought forth by this administration, including the appointments of key governmental positions. These days it seems republicans would rather oppose their democratic adversaries, than unite for the good of the people they represent.
When I arrived in Eau Claire, I happened to spy a sticker on the back of a blue SUV which reminded me of the sign I had seen earlier. Expecting to see the same words beneath the sticker, I sped up closer to the vehicle, only to discover that rather than saying "United We Stand" the sticker said, "Pro-American, Anti-Obama." The driver of the SUV, who was a rather portly gentlemen to put it kindly, also had a sticker on the side of his vehicle which began "Obama manure..." and proceeded into obscenity. Dissent is one thing, but this type of vitriol is uncalled for. While I do not know the man's particular political beliefs, nor if he even owns the vehicle he was driving, it seems safe to assume that many of the people who only a few years ago were calling on the rest of us to unite behind a war based on lies, are now angrily opposing legislation passed to prevent people from losing their health insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
The expression "United We Stand" is actually a paraphrase of the expression "A house divided against itself cannot stand," and was spoken by perhaps our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. It was said during a time when our country was not just theoretically divided, but literally divided. I wonder how many people who condemned progressives a few years ago with these words really consider the legacy of Lincoln. He was our first republican president; he opposed slavery and tried to unite the country by putting members of the opposing party in his own cabinet. President Obama, whose ascendancy would never have happened without Lincoln, has tried to mimmick the great leader's example by putting a republican in his own cabinet as well. Unfortunately, the significance of these historical echoes seem to be lost on the majority of conservatives these days. Hopefully, other republican leaders will show the same type of courage and help us reunite once again.