By John R. Kasich
This op-ed was first published in the Boston Globe July 22, 2020. It is republished here with permissions.
America, we’ve lost our way. As a nation, and as individuals, we’ve been thrown off course by an endless barrage of shocking words and divisive deeds from the president who is supposed to lead us.
Watching each new step in the wrong direction over the past three and a half years, we shuddered and told ourselves that America could never stray further from the path our Founders intended. As bad as each outrage from President Trump was, we thought this was it, that things could never get worse. Until they did.
Like many who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him, I tried to give this president a chance, with the hope he might rise to the occasion and keep us, however shakily, on the right path. Those hopes were quickly dashed, not only by his words, but especially by his policies, positions, and outright deceptions.
There’s been no saving grace left by a rising stock market or any other bragging points he may have earned or fallen into. Nothing he’s done is protecting us from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic — over 141,000 American souls have already been lost to it, and the surge continues — or from the pain and anger in divided communities, the bloated government finances, or the eager adversaries emboldened by our global retreat.
Haven’t we all had enough? Aren’t we sick and tired of losing our way? I know I am. And, as a life-long Republican, I find it’s been enough to override my sturdiest political attitudes and party loyalties for as long as this crisis lasts.
While there are many issues on which my Democratic friends and I do not see eye to eye, my love for America allows me to put those differences aside for now. I look forward to working with anyone who shares this same, singular concern: America’s soul will be irreversibly eroded under four more years of our current “leadership.”
Americans must find our way again.
Just as we can no longer tolerate the path we are on, we must also reject the temptation to protest one man’s divisive and mean-spirited acts with division and meanness of our own. We must choose another path — the path of unity.
Healing the nation after nearly four exhausting years of systematic splintering of the American spirit requires us to remember those values that have always united us. These are ideals we have sometimes fallen short of, but never — until now — threatened to abandon: the America of freedom, equality, opportunity, the rule of law that protects democracy. The America that still believes in common decency.
A nation confident in its justice and rooted in decency and respect for one another rallies to stand up against tyranny wherever it sees it. A unified nation, one that holds all our cultures and lifestyles in equal value and affords us all the same protections and opportunities, weaves together our differences to build a shield against oppression.
The first three words of the Constitution, the most transformative political document the world has ever known, are, “We the people.” All of this must start with us, “we the people,” right now.
Do we want to heal America? It takes more than a post on our social media feed.
Let’s start in our community — or our street. Ask your neighbors if they think America could be more unified, peaceful and, well, nice. Volunteer for a cause you value. Practice your faith — or just be kind. Vote according to America’s guiding principles and know it matters. Believe that America is a force for good and help make sure that’s not just a slogan, but reality.
The wild ride we’ve all been on since January 2017 doesn’t need to be our path going forward. There is a better path, but it requires something more from each of us. It is the way of democracy and the eternal vigilance demanded of those who seek to enjoy its benefits. Those benefits — “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” — were purchased by the blood and sweat of the women and men of all colors who came before us. Respecting their sacrifices means leaving some space for the differences between us, even as we come together as Americans to fight to ensure that that space can continue to exist.
I’ve had enough of the path we’re on, a path I know will not end well. I am tired of worrying about America’s tomorrow. It’s time to come together and reject division, anger, indulgence, and isolation. It’s time to get back to practicing the ideals that have brought us so far.
Now, more than ever, Americans must reject those forces that seek to divide us and, instead, unite as one people, with the individual freedoms to fulfill America’s promise to pursue all of our own varied, beautiful dreams, now and tomorrow.
John R. Kasich served as governor of Ohio from 2011 to 2019 and was a representative in Congress from 1983 to 2001.