Fighting to stay together, not break apart

By Brandon Thurner:

 In today’s heated political atmosphere, Americans need to learn from successful married couples how to “fight in a way to preserve the union,” and to avoid demonizing each other.

This message was delivered by prominent sociologist and former White House Advisor Amitai Etzioni at a recent northern Virginia seminar.

Dr. Etizioni, former president of the American Sociological Association, drew a parallel between  patriotism and inter-personal relationships. “Humans are hard-wired for lasting, meaningful relationships,” both with others and with larger entities like their country. Such relationships are key to people living “longer, healthier, and happier lives.”

“Patriotism,” he also noted, “is the love of country, with the key being separating patriotism from nationalism.”

Etzioni worries that today’s bitter, incessant squabbling is eroding Americans’ sense of national community and undermining our democratic institutions. “The divisiveness and polarization in the country may be leading to Americans fighting in a way to break the union, and losing sight of the common good,” he said.

At this time, knowing how to fight to preserve a relationship, and not to break it, is critical, he emphasized.

Etzioni, who was chair of Columbia University’s sociology department and a senior advisor in Pres. Jimmy Carter’s administration, spoke at an event July 25 at the Providence District Community Center, co-hosted by the National Affairs Committee (NAC) of the Fairfax County Democrats and the Providence District Democratic Committee (PDDC).

PDDC regularly holds dialogues and discussions with leading figures in the national and local political debate.  PDDC Chair Ray Marin said these events are “a way to turn down the temperature of the political discourse” while examining more closely the current challenges facing our society and democracy.

Etzioni, who is also founder and director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at The George Washington University, left the packed room with a call to strengthening civic discourse and conversation by combining individual building blocks of citizens into a unifying national fabric.

“Our strength is our diversity, within unity,” he said.

Etzioni is organizing a new movement – the Patriotic Movement – in keeping with the themes he enunciated at the forum. Among the movement’s key objectives is electing politicians committed to supporting the common good while advocating for the special needs and interests of the constituencies they represent. The group’s website is (password “patriot”).

Also, for those interested in knowing more about Etzioni’s views, his latest book, Reclaiming Patriotism, is due  out on September 10, 2019, from University of Virginia Press.

Brandon Thurner is a member of the Providence District Democratic Committee, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, and the Fairfax Young Democrats. He works as a government contractor in energy and international trade.

Photo: Prominent sociologist Dr. Amitai Etzioni, here with some of the 24 books he has published, shared his insights at a recent event in Providence District