How Do We Find Unity in Our Divided Communities?

Tennessee State Senator Heidi Campbell and Executive Director of North Dakota Can, Amber Vibeto, discuss how to promote unity in divided times.
Image design by Vinicius Tavares for DWF. All rights reserved.

Hard Work and Honest Communication Can Lead to a Better Future

By Sen. Heidi Campbell, Tennessee State Senator and Candidate for Mayor of Nashville, and Amber Vibeto, Executive Director, North Dakota Can

Tennessee State Senator Heidi Campbell and Executive Director of North Dakota Can, Amber Vibeto, discuss how to promote unity in divided times.

Finding Unity in Our Communities 

By Sen. Heidi Campbell – Tennessee State Senator and Candidate for Mayor of Nashville

One thing Americans agree on is that we’re living in a divided country. As polarized and extreme as our political landscape may seem, however, this is not unprecedented and it’s not accidental. This happens in democracies when the desires of a few overtake the needs of many. Whether or not our democracy will survive the current division remains to be seen.

As someone who lives at the tip of the spear for the attack on our rights and freedoms as a Tennessee state senator representing part of Nashville, I know that we can find unity. But it’s going to take some work. 

Listen To Your Fellow American

Polling clearly shows us that Americans fundamentally agree on most issues, and yet we’ve elected representatives who seek to divide us. They do this because they know that their ability to maintain power relies upon continued fear of “others”—such as immigrants, trans people, and people of color. If media outlets and political figures like Trump, Carlson, and DeSantis continue to stoke the divisive fires, we will continue to be divided. 

Yet, we have it in our power to actively disengage from this divisiveness, change the subject, and listen. When I do this, I find that people really want to talk about the same kitchen table issues that concern all of us—affordability, education, public safety, transportation, voting rights, cannabis reform, and our environment. When we have meaningful conversations about these issues, we begin to find unity. Because, in the final analysis, we all want the same thing: a better future for ourselves and for our children. 

Unity Begins With Hard Work

It’s important to remember that democracy is hard work. It took almost forty years for the southern strategy to effectively divide us, and it’s going to take time, patience, and hard work to unite us. The work is done in person-to-person interactions, and that’s challenging when we’re competing with algorithmically driven social media and 24-hour disinformation networks.

I talk to a lot of people on both sides of the divide and I know that people are tired of the divisiveness. If we can change the conversation and talk about issues that matter to all of us, I believe we can begin to do the hard work of bringing unity to our country.

Tennessee State Senator Heidi Campbell and Executive Director of North Dakota Can, Amber Vibeto, discuss how to promote unity in divided times.

It Is Time to Bridge the Divide

By Amber Vibeto – Executive Director, North Dakota Can

Bridging the political divide in America cannot be accomplished by one side controlling the conversation, asserting which issues matter, and which ones are mere distractions meant to stoke division. Before we can even begin to reduce political polarization, we must agree on exactly what kind of unity we want. Do we want a forced unity, where citizens face consequences for dissent, or do we want a unity that allows for diverse viewpoints and respect for each other’s humanity and constitutional rights? Fortunately, we still have the freedom to choose to unite under the principles and values that formed the freest and most prosperous nation on earth. 

We Can’t Have Unity Without Open, Honest Conversation

Unity does not require agreement on every issue, but it does require a shared respect for intelligent and honest debate that rejects tribalism and focuses on the merits of the arguments being made. Unfortunately, healthy political discourse is nowhere to be found on the national stage or cable news programs and is actively being suppressed on university campuses across the country. There’s not much we can do about the constant propaganda that pours from politicians and pundits, but we can certainly address the ideological indoctrination and censorship happening in higher education under the guise of social justice.

College students are becoming increasingly authoritarian and driven by a strident ideological fervor rather than an honest desire to pursue truth and knowledge. The shouting down of speakers who espouse non-Leftist opinions is happening regularly on university campuses. The unwillingness to be exposed to differing ideas and world-views shows an alarming lack of maturity and wisdom for America’s prospective leaders. Labeling opposing viewpoints as hate speech has become the weapon of choice to shut down difficult conversations and does not bode well for the future of political discourse and freedom in general.  

Respect is a Two-Way Street

If we want a diverse, but unified, republic in the future, we must work towards that vision today. We must encourage the free exchange of ideas and learn to appreciate that there is always more than one voice in a room. We must lead by example, practice the art of respectful disagreement, and model respect for other viewpoints for the young people in our lives. We must defend against bureaucracies which breed conformity and stifle free speech and academic freedom. And we must promote inclusive discussions on college campuses, including classically liberal or conservative speakers, in order to foster tolerance for diverse opinions and healthy debate. If we do this, we can achieve unity. 

Democracy is for All of Us, Not Just Some of Us

By Sen. Heidi Campbell – Tennessee State Senator and Candidate for Mayor of Nashville

While people across the political spectrum agree that mutual respect must be a component of any effort to bridge the chasm that divides us in this country, there are clear biases in the language we employ to discuss the issue. The aversion that the far Right expresses to diversity, equity, and inclusion is disrespectful towards those whose options have been limited by discrimination and is antithetical to its purported effort to promote free speech. Racism, sexism, and other biases are very real societal challenges for most of our population. A true democracy allows for all forms of speech—including that of the far Right.

The assertion that unity can be achieved through silencing our opponents is disingenuous. That is not unity, it’s totalitarianism. Moreover, it’s rooted in tribalism, and the assumption that the lived experience of ‘others’ is invalid. Pseudo-academic institutions like Hillsdale College that push a theo-fascist agenda are a huge threat to the future of our country, because their curricula promote revisionist patriarchal history, and anti-scientific disinformation.  

The dumbing down of the American electorate and increasing inequality have been a sign of our diminished influence in the world order. Americans of all stripes need to unite to reverse these dangerous trends.

True Unity Begins in the Classroom

By Amber Vibeto – Executive Director, North Dakota Can

The objection on the Right to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs is not due to bigotry, disrespect for others, or the unwillingness to acknowledge true discrimination. DEI programs are part of an organized effort to advance an ideological agenda. This orthodoxy, ironically, stifles true diversity and inclusion, by punishing dissidents. It is imperative to reject all DEI bureaucracies if there is any hope of unifying the country under its founding principles of free speech and religious freedom. 

DEI programs teach that America is fundamentally flawed and systemically oppressive to certain identity groups, which explains why they reject traditional debate that is part of, in their view, a white-dominated patriarchy. How can we be united with such divisive accusations? Thoughtful dialogue that includes opposing viewpoints is considered dangerous and hateful to the most ardent social justice advocates. It will become increasingly impossible to bridge the political divide if universities continue to mold students into activist citizens who are unwilling, or unable, to engage with others who express opposite views. 

True unity requires an underlying agreement on foundational principles. There will always be disagreement among conservatives, libertarians, and liberals, on the best ways to solve our greatest public policy challenges. However, most citizens along this political spectrum agree that the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights outline the fundamental framework of our political discourse and give us the freedom to advocate for our beliefs. If we want to protect these beliefs, achieving true unity must be a top priority in order to preserve the principles and ideals that make America what it is. 

If you enjoyed this article, please make sure to like, comment, and share below. You can also read more from our All Politics is Local series here

Heidi Campbell
Tenneessee State Senator and Candidate, Mayor of Nashville

Heidi Campbell is an American music publisher and politician from Tennessee. A Democrat, Campbell has represented the 20th district of the Tennessee Senate, covering the inner suburbs of Nashville, since 2021. She is currently running to serve as Mayor of Nashville.

Amber Vibeto
Executive Director, North Dakota Can

Amber Vibeto is co-founder and executive director of North Dakota Can, a conservative nonprofit organization dedicated to helping citizens engage politically within their local communities and the state legislative process. Amber lives in western North Dakota with her husband, three daughters, and a Goldendoodle that follows her everywhere she goes.

1 comment

Paula Slow June 18, 2023 at 7:53 am

I appreciated this debate, one thing I do want to clarify, as Amber pointed out, our country is a Republic, not a democracy, the workings are different.
Most people I know, and talking to customers where I work, do not like what is being taught to our children, period. Amber cited how we feel completely. The documents that she listed as the foundation for our unity is correct, but most young people don’t even know what they say.
We have a bad habit in this world, our country, we label people and don’t take the time to really get to know them. Labeling is a dangerous thing, you set up a wall, to that person that never comes down.

We need to get to know people, try to understand where they have come from and through, and have compassion and respect. Social media is crippling us from getting face to face with people and watching how they react, what their faces and body’s are saying. You can’t do that unless you are in person. We need to take the time to get out into our communities and get to know one another as we used to in this country, and help one another in times of need.

I have to say that in a large way, our community where I live does this.

Thank you.


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