Our country has never been more divided. We retreat to our partisan bubbles and ideological cul-de-sacs.
How do we rebuild the human bridges of a divided nation that is coming apart at its seams?
Virtually every war, every conflict, every argument, every debate and every divorce comes down to one thing — not valuing what we have in common.
So, it is rare when we Americans agree on something.
But, we Americans have been united in our support of the people of Ukraine. At this watershed moment in the struggle for human freedom, we are all Ukrainians.
There’s a lesson we can learn from watching the courage of the Ukrainian people defiantly defending their homeland, willing to risk their lives against unprovoked Russian aggression.
There’s a lesson we can learn from the Ukrainian woman who walked up to a Russian soldier and told him to put sunflower seeds in his pockets, so that when he dies on Ukrainian land, flowers will grow.
There’s a lesson we can learn from the Ukrainian man who stood in front of a Russian tank.
There’s a lesson we can learn from U.S. Army Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, a devout Christian, who, as a prisoner of war in World War II, refused a German commandant’s order that he round up all of the Jewish soldiers outside of their barracks. Instead, Edmonds assembled all 1,275 American POWs outside of the barracks and told the commander, “We are all Jews here.”
The lesson is hiding in plain sight.
Watching Ukrainians fight not just for their survival, but also for their identity and soul has reminded us that we humans are at our best when we focus on something bigger than ourselves.
We are at our best when we focus on the values and destiny that we have in common.
We are at our best when we focus on our shared devotion to democracy, freedom and equal justice.
We are at our best when, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we fight injustice anywhere because it is a threat to justice everywhere.
We are at our best when we value the free exchange of ideas and, with it, difficult and necessary conversations among people of good will and good faith.
I’m not naive. I know that there are powerful forces in our country who thrive on sowing division, hatred and bigotry, and they have no plans to stop.
But, at least for a moment, let’s put our daily challenges, differences and disagreements in perspective.
Let’s think about those Ukrainians who are fighting for their right to be free and alive.
We are all Ukrainians.
Lee Fisher is dean and Joseph C. Hostetler-BakerHostetler chair in law at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University. He is the former Ohio attorney general, lt. governor, director of the Ohio Department of Development, chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission, president and CEO of the Center for Families and Children, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, state representative and state senator.