This article was written in the summer of 2020 during the George Floyd riots.
By Damon Linker, The Week
All week I’ve been haunted by a brief few seconds of video posted on Twitter late Sunday night by a student journalist in Eugene, Oregon. Two men face off at a protest — the one standing on the left is demonstrating for Black Lives Matter; the one on the right, sitting in a pickup truck, is a counter-protester. Each is pointing a handgun at the other’s face at point blank range.
That’s us. That’s America during the long, hot summer of 2020.
I often catch myself pondering exactly what it is that keeps our country together. What do we hold in common? What do we share? The word “republic” comes from the Latin res publica — literally “public thing.” What is the single “thing” that is our public, political self? What binds us? Our national motto is E pluribus unum — out of many, one. What is this “one”? Is it just the totality of the clashing, conflicted individuals and groups? Or is the collectivity something substantial in its own right that orders the parts and unites them?