America is badly divided. Not since the Civil War have we faced such disagreement between friends, neighbors, different generations, even families.

We are losing the soul of our nation. Our lack of purpose renders us vulnerable to outside threats, and our lack of unity weakens us. We must find and encourage new leadership that can identify the issues that divide us, and then insist on their cooperation, compromise and bipartisanship.

Maybe we need another great convention — such as the one that mapped the blueprint for these United States — where solutions for the problems that are tearing apart the fabric of America could be identified.

Here is the test question for our endangered way of life: What can we agree upon? The answer will provide the path for survival and the hope for our children’s future.

First, however, we should take a moment to review our nation’s history, especially in light of a recent survey of a cross-section of American adults that revealed that only a few could pass an eighth-grade history test. If we identify what our Founding Fathers agreed upon when they forged our great union, then perhaps we can determine what we can agree upon now.

The first great agreement, the Declaration of Independence in 1776, boldly stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

In 1787, 55 delegates from the various states met to frame a Constitution for a federal republic, according to teachingamericanhistory.org. The duties and responsibilities of national government were described, as well as the relationship between the states and the federal government. There would be three branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — with checks and balances to assure that no single branch had too much power.

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, guaranteed the rights of individuals. These rights include freedom of speech and religion, freedom of the press, the right to bear arms, the right to peaceful assembly; protection from unreasonable search and seizure and the right to a speedy public trial by an impartial jury.

The Constitution of the United States was the first such document in history; no other country can equal these remarkable achievements.

So, what has happened? As we revisit history, it appears to me that some of those things upon which Americans agreed in the 18th century are under attack, and that explains some of the cracks in the beliefs that comprise our republic.

Do we still believe that our creator endowed us with certain unalienable rights? Are we following the edict that checks and balances would be employed to prevent any single branch of government from having too much power? Do we still have freedom of religion and protection from unreasonable search and seizure by our government?

The uncomfortable answers to these questions and many others may be seen as hairline fractures in American’s foundation.

But, let’s move forward with the hypothesis that determining what we can still agree upon might indeed be the formula for future success. It might be as simple as “Can we all get along?” That was the question Rodney King asked during riots in Los Angeles in 1992, after police officers who beat him were acquitted of charges of assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force.

To get along together, we first should identify those things we still agree upon.

We could start with a declaration of independence from politics as usual. We could insist upon nonpartisanship. We could agree that independence, the rule of law, freedom, liberty and justice for all remain the irrevocable formula for the future.

As I searched for things upon which we can all agree, I discovered that they may simply be those things on which we always agreed. They are still there: in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Maybe we don’t need another great convention, after all. Maybe we just need to click the restart button and restore our country to the position it once held.

Here is the winning message for our next political leader: “America, the world’s greatest nation — again.”

Don Roberts, a former city councilor and former vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta, is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District.


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