Editor’s note: Susan Bodnar is a clinical psychologist who teaches at Columbia University’s Teachers College and at The Stephen Mitchell Center for Relational Studies. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, two children and all of their pets.
By Susan Bodnar, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Too often, we allow ourselves to be defined by our differences.
We are either red state or blue state; 1% or 99%; Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant; black, white or brown; pro-life or pro-choice.
For or against gun control.
The citizens of this country speak strongly and divisively. After all, it is baked in our American identity. This dissent, we argue, creates a healthy democracy, and an inquisitive mind.
But sometimes too much difference can cause dysfunction.
As a psychologist I have often witnessed the distinct parts of a person’s mind come apart so strongly that extreme mental illness emerges.
Let’s not let this be our country’s fate.
Unity holds our country’s promise. May we offer it as a legacy to those taken away from us so senselessly?
Let’s let the little angels and their keepers who died so tragically become our inspiration for a society of difference that works together.
When so many little children die, as they did in the Sandy Hook tragedy, and when heroic teachers, a school psychologist and a principal are called upon to defend the lives of little ones with their own, we have two choices.
We can succumb to the base ugliness of despair.
Or we can repair.
Can we finally admit and agree that we have a problem with violence in our country and decide to fix it?
Sometimes so much focus on our collective differences obscures the valiant and expansive nature of the American character.
This weekend, however, we cried together.
Perhaps we found a way to honor our differences while also unifying for our children.
At the Sandy Hook memorial service, the nation witnessed Jews, Christians, Muslims, B’hai – black, white and brown – come together to mourn and to pray.
It felt like the template for our future. FULL POST
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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