On Super Bowl Sunday, February 7, 2016, the Denver Broncos, as underdogs, proved that a team is more than the sum of its parts. Peyton Manning wasn’t simply doing what he does while MVP Von Miller or any of the other members of the roster were doing what they do. Rather, the Broncos came together as a true team where individual members worked together in an interconnected manner, enhancing one another’s abilities to achieve something far greater than the sum of the individual players.
Similarly, throughout the year, Broncos fans United in Orange to help propel their team to the Super Bowl and then to a win. United in a common vision, they transcended differences in race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and political affiliations.
To celebrate the win, more than one million fans United in Orange gathered together under brilliant blue skies and warm February temperatures to welcome their champions home in downtown Denver. The sheer size of the crowd was amazing, considering Colorado’s population is just over 5 million and Denver’s population is under 700,000 people. But even more amazing was that there was only one arrest made during a day-long celebration that lasted almost 10 hours.
When people unite with a common purpose or vision, the possibilities are endless. Likewise, division is a death knell for any sports team, family, or nation. A nation fractured by political ideologies and polarization cannot prosper just as a house divided against itself cannot stand.
Affective polarization has risen steadily in recent decades and is becoming more apparent with every election. Americans have more fervent commitments to candidates, cultures, and ideologies, setting themselves apart from those in “rival” groups. Many see their beliefs as being entirely “right” while viewing those of opposing ideologies as wholly “wrong.” This paradigm of polarization dominates our political system and society and diminishes our civic capacity.
Although polarization may have some psychological advantages and can be a strong mobilizing strategy, today’s increasing polarization is a major problem. It’s crippling our politics and dividing us as a society. In addition, it undermines trust at all levels. Polarization and distrust lead to more separation, more inequality, less intelligent decision-making, political gridlock, and more rancor. Few problems America faces are as potentially dangerous as polarization.
As we count down the days until November, perhaps we should take a lesson from Broncos fans and remember we are all Americans and Unite in Red, White and Blue for the greater good of this country, remembering that in a free society diverse and strongly held views are normal and to be desired but that polarization corrodes this great American Experiment.
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