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The 'Our America' vs. 'Their America' Mentality Poisons Public Discourse

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published

our America Christopher Parypa /

On July 4, I happened across a status update on Facebook from someone who said there are two Americas: one America that agreed with one ideology and a second America that agreed with another ideology. Of all days to express such an idea, it seemed odd that the person would choose a day when Americans should be celebrating being united under a common identity -- being American.

While this is often a perspective seen in many divisive forms of rhetoric, it is interesting that someone would highlight what could arguably be seen as the biggest problem with contemporary public discourse and debate so plainly.

There is a prevailing problem that has escalated to extremes over the past few years in the way public figures and outspoken commentators navigate popular narrative in the United States. Americans continue to engage in a “our America” versus “their America” diatribe which inevitably leads to popular campaign lines like: “We have to take our country back.”

There is so much political noise out there that people often forget to think about the fact that there is only one America. It is a beautiful country where people, united under a common identity, are free to express their different ideas on the role of government and how elected representatives should govern, as well as the many issues that every American faces on a daily basis.

By claiming there is anything more than one America perpetuates an approach to political discourse that is both counter-intuitive and counter-productive. It is the type of mentality that has allowed the hyper-partisanship that plagues Washington to continue -- a polarization that has resulted in Congress having its lowest approval rating in modern U.S. history.

No one is saying we should all hold hands and sing kumbayah. We don’t have to agree. We don’t even have to like each other.

The United States was founded by men from different backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses, men who ascribed to competing political philosophies and different ideas on what the role of government should be. Some of these men notoriously did not get along with each other, but nevertheless contributed in a joint effort to form a government the world, at that time, had never seen before.

When we celebrate the founding of this great experiment we call the United States of America, it is important to remember the process by which we declared independence from Great Britain and the precedent it set for how the Founders would later establish the U.S. Constitution and lay the foundation for the nation.

The United States was built on compromise and collaboration, an approach that is certainly easier talked about than applied. It took 22 months for the Continental Congress to declare independence from Britain. The United States Constitution wasn’t approved in the first draft -- not even close.

The Founders didn't simply take two opposing positions, put them together, and call it a day. The odds were not in their favor as they had a exponentially slim margin of success, but they were determined to provide a greater form of government to protect civil liberties and popular sovereignty. The government they formed would not have been possible without thorough consideration and compromise that went beyond how politicians approach compromise today.

The greatest issues facing our country deserve better consideration than what we are giving them, but public narrative is never going to be where it needs to be if we continue to approach these issues from a “our America” versus “their America” mentality. There is only one America and it deserves better consideration than it is getting.

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