Crowd of people raising peace sign
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Crowd of people raising peace sign
Crowd of people raising peace sign
Photo of Keith Mestrich

Keith Mestrich

Former President & CEO

Last week was quite a week for our country, and not in a good way. It was a week the likes of which I hope we never see again.

It was characterized by way too much hate, much of which hit far too close to home and left many with an unsettling feeling about our current state of national affairs. The pipe bombs that were sent to over a dozen individuals struck a chord with the Amalgamated family as devices targeted some of our clients and our allies.

The vile anti-Semitic violence on display in Pittsburgh this weekend also struck a chord. Our bank was founded almost 100 years ago by a group of progressive Jewish scholars and trade unionists. For our entire history we have operated under the vision those founders established—a vision of building a better society that is entirely at odds with the gunman’s outbursts on social media and his gruesome criminal act.

We need to pause as a community. We need to ask ourselves hard questions about what tribal politics and fierce partisanship is doing to our culture, our society and our nation.

As a nation, we have constructed an environment in which people shout and scream at each other, and fail to listen to each other. It is readily apparent on TV, on Facebook and Twitter, at political rallies and now on our streets. It is not just one person or one political party—there is plenty of guilt to go around.

This environment has led to more division in our country than at any time in my lifetime. And now, too often, it is resulting in violence and death.

It is time for each of us to do some soul searching. It is easy to blame others, but we all need to examine our language, our postings, our words and our actions. We all need to think before we speak and act.

Ours is a country where we resolve our differences through civil discourse, not violence. We shun repression and encourage openness and tolerance. We are stronger because, though different paths have brought us here, we find unity in our shared ideals. We are bolder because we can speak freely and our voices, though singing different tunes, join together in a chorus of liberty. The very foundation of the world order is based on our conviction as a nation that people should, through democratic expression, be the architects of their own destiny. This is the nation we are—not one of division and violence, but one of civility and harmony.

Together we must join hands and solemnly condemn violence—and we must urge our leaders, our media personalities, our CEOs and our politicians to do so as well. But now is also a time to meditate on what our nation is really about. We must remind one another, loudly and clearly, that we celebrate our differences, that we grow stronger when we constructively debate our future and express our self-determination and that we welcome all people to join under the protective tent of our flag and share in the benefits of our collective prosperity. Because America is only America when we embrace our identity as a beacon for free people to come and bask in the light of liberty. The tensions that threaten to rip our nation apart are no match for the forces that bind us as Americans. The only things stronger than hate and violence are compassion and peace.