There's an invitation, over at Radio Open Source, for bloggers to write their own version (BOTU) of the State of the Union address. It's a last minute kind of thing, so we get a few minutes or a couple of hours to pound out our attempts at something that the White House spends months at.
With that in mind, here's my take:
Today, more than at any other time since the Civil War, America stands divided. Half of all Americans, it seems, can almost always be counted on to have an opinion strongly opposed to the other half. The divide seems to stretch across almost every aspect of our culture.
We did not seek to become a nation divided, but that is what we are. The divisions have deepened in recent years, and at times it seems that the gap is unbridgable. But bridge it we must, for, as Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
We cannot fail to close this gap, for if we do we will be faced with a crisis worse than what Lincoln was faced with. At that time, the divisions in the nation cut cleanly across geographical divides. Now they do not - colors on the map may paint a picture that looks clean, but these divisions run deeper, and they run through the middle of areas that are painted a single color on televised political maps.
How we choose to deal with this the divide will define our nation for years to come.
We have, at this moment, a choice between two paths. We can continue down the path that we have been - a path of ten-word policy soundbites, a path where distorting the arguments of your opponents is the norm, a path where every policy decision is treated as a win or lose contest by the two main parties.
That is the path to national destruction, but we can continue along it until it reaches its end. We can choose to fail.
We can also choose to succeed. That is the harder path, because it will require a massive shift in our political culture. It will require us to stop looking at our political opponents as the enemy, and it will require us to stop acting that way.
It will require us, most of all, to truly recognize that a diversity of ideas and ideals is a strength.
It may require us to compromise with each other, but it need not. Bipartisanship can be good, but sometimes a partisan position is the right choice, and sometimes it is better to pick one position than to try to blend two radically different approaches. The right choice will be different at different times, and on different issues.
We do not need to embrace the milquetoast middle. What we need is honest and open debate on the issues. We need to work with each other sometimes, and to not hold a grudge when we need to work against each other. We need to argue the issues fairly, and to conduct open debates.
We need, in short, to do nothing more than to recommit ourselves to a system of government that recognizes the value of opposition, and the strength of diversity.