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By Their Fruits: A Message to Our Traditionalist, Religious Countrymen

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There remain millions of Americans who continue to stand by this president. Many of them see him as a godly man anointed to lead us at this important time. They have been inspired by this president's ringing declarations about our basic values, and by his pronouncements of faith.

To those of my traditionalist, religious countrymen who have given this presidency their support I say, quoting Jesus in the Gospel According to Matthew: "By their fruits ye shall know them."

So, even if many of this leadership's words have been good, let's look at the fruits. And I don't mean the unintended fruits, like the failures of this administration that have become visible. Let's look at the fruits that have been consistent, the one's harvested even more bountifully when this administration was at the height of its powers, and thus had its freest hand, than more recently when events have weakened it.

In particular, I would ask: Is it a sign of goodness to sow division?

Is not goodness, rather, about bringing things together, about creating harmony and wholeness? And if someone uses his power to tear things apart --turning one group against another, shredding structures of good order""does that not manifests a spirit of an altogether different sort?

Here the talk was indeed good: "I'm a uniter, not a divider." But with regard to the fruit, is there anything more consistent in the record of this presidency than its pattern of dividing people?

This has been true both within America, and between America and the world.

Here at home, our citizenry has become more deeply polarized over this leadership than pollsters have ever seen before. This did not happen by accident, for this leadership has consistently focused on the issues that most divide us, rarely calling our attention to the values we share.

As a result, it has become exceptionally difficult for Americans of different leanings to talk with each other. Across the country, innumerable friendships have broken apart because of the extraordinary polarization our present leadership has fostered.

So also has this presidency created enmity between America and the world. Till our present leaders came to power, America had been for generations more trusted than any dominant power in history. But beginning even before 9/11, and before this "war of choice" with Iraq, this president has been alienating our friends and making us lots of new enemies.

Is not this pattern of creating division and strife a meaningful clue to the moral nature of this leadership?

Turning people against each other --rendering the human drama into an Us against a Them-- has been the practice of destructive rulers throughout history. Such division furthers not goodness, but its opposite. For when people are focused on their conflicts, they're unable to build a more whole world based on their common goals and their common humanity.

A leader who diverts our attention and energy into quarrelling about divisive, hot-button issues (like, for example, gay marriage), disables us from coming together to make progress on the basis of our shared values and from addressing those questions that will have the greatest impact on how good and just and healthy our society will be in the future.

In its history, America has made great achievements of a moral nature. But can one point to anything like that being achieved today?

Likewise in the wider world""the divisive spirit throws obstacles in the way of human progress.

For two generations, America led other humane societies in creating international order""rules and structures to maintain peace, to foster the rule of law, to promote the well being of humankind. But this American leadership has systematically undercut such order.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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