NASH COLUMN: How can we heal dangerous divisions, improve lives?

NASH COLUMN: How can we heal dangerous divisions, improve lives?

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The old saying, “United we stand, divided we fall,” has seldom been more important to embrace than it is now. Because, lately, powerful forces are determined to tear Americans apart to benefit a few people while the rest of us pay the price of that division.

One of those powerful forces is Russia, whose leaders predicted years ago that they would conquer us, not militarily, but from within our own country. Nobody has described how successful they’ve been more than Fiona Hill. Until July, Hill was deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian Affairs on Trump’s National Security Council staff. From 2006 to 2009, she was a national intelligence analyst specializing in Russia and Eurasia. She’s a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the board of trustees of the Eurasia Foundation. In 2013, she and Clifford G. Gaddy authored a book about Russian President Vladimir Putin. In other words, she knows more about Russia than most other officials.

In her Nov. 21 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, she said Russia’s goal is to seed doubt and misinformation, and pit Americans against one another. They want to create chaos, she said, to weaken the United States. The reason they’ve pushed fictional conspiracy theories about Ukrainian interference in our 2016 elections is because they want Americans to distrust the Ukrainians so we’ll be hesitant to help them resist Russian aggression.

If Trump was really concerned about meddling in the 2016 elections, why didn’t he believe all the evidence against Russian interference, discovered by our own intelligence sources instead of believing Putin’s denials? Answer: he believed the Russian propaganda, just as they wanted him and other Americans to do. Already, they’ve made great progress in conquering us from within.

I didn’t help matters in my last column when I wrote “some people choose to remain ignorant.” I should have qualified what I meant, which is that some people, including myself, choose to remain ignorant about certain subjects because they aren’t interested in learning about them. For example, I’m intentionally ignorant about car engines, calculus and a lot of other things I don’t care to learn about.

My mistake was brought to my attention by a reader and Donald Trump supporter with whom I’ve developed a friendship of sorts. We respect one another, even though we don’t agree on many political issues. So, to clarify, I do not believe Trump supporters are ignorant. I do believe many of them choose to ignore facts that make them uncomfortable, which is true for a lot of people, including some Democrats.

An important question is: How can we heal the dangerous divisions among friends, relatives and people of opposing political parties? A better question may be: Do we really want it to be this way, or do we want to find common ground and work together to make Wisconsin and the United States better for all of us? Why can’t we figure out how we can all win? This is a nation of smart, innovative, hard-working people. Surely we can find a way.

A good beginning may be to list all the things we value and need. From what I’ve read and heard people say, those things are: fair elections; fair, equitable taxation that doesn’t punish one group to benefit another; a quality education system; a way for people to get the higher education they need to obtain jobs that support them without going into massive debt; fair elections, along with campaign finance reform; affordable and available health care that won’t bankrupt us or the country; affordable prescription drugs; decent and safe roads and bridges; a living wage for full-time workers based on the local cost of living; consumer protections against unscrupulous business practices; protections to keep our air and water safe; a non-partisan method of redistricting so neither party has an unfair advantage; sensible gun laws that ensure responsible gun owners can keep their guns while those who are apt to hurt themselves or others are prohibited from obtaining them; immigration reform which includes welcoming those who come here to enhance our country with their skills, hard work or knowledge and giving them an affordable and timely means to become responsible, fear-free, taxpaying citizens.

Most of us share those ideas and values. So why do lawmakers make it so hard to put them into practice? Maybe we should ask them. Maybe we should make it a point to attend their listening sessions, email them with our concerns and priorities, keep track of how they vote on bills and avoid biased sources as much as possible.

If we do that, we’ll know who’s working for us and vote accordingly. That would be a good start toward national unity.

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 35 years. Contact her at

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