We’ve all heard the “America as a dysfunctional family” analogy. But just humor me, it’s the most productive framework I have come up with to see a way forward after what has been the most contentious election of my lifetime. If your family is anything like mine, it’s dysfunctional, at least to a certain degree. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 18 months, you know that to say the same of our country is putting it nicely. But to be an American, much like being a member of a loving yet dysfunctional family, is to choose, day in and day out, to keep showing up. It doesn’t always make sense, and it doesn’t have to. I have my reasons, I’m sure that you have yours, and I’m guessing they are all different.
Many of you are celebrating this morning – enjoy it. There’s no doubt that many others are reeling. Some of us have known for some time that we would be disappointed no matter the result. To those of us feeling angry, don’t forget that some of the same people who are responsible for handing the Presidency to the “other side” are your neighbors and friends, or at least they used to be. There’s no doubt that some of these same people have made you very proud in the aftermath of 9/11, or a more recent example, after the horrific shootings in Dallas this past July. I’m sure there are countless others. No matter how angry you are, don’t have such a short memory that you forget the reason we should keep showing up for one another as fellow Americans like we do for our own loving, dysfunctional families – the differences between us don’t justify jeopardizing the good we can do when we choose to come together.
I recently read a letter that President Reagan wrote to his daughter, Patti. At the time he sent the letter, he and his wife had been estranged from Patti for nearly 20 years. I think that it offers wisdom and a useful framework for how we, as individuals, can put our differences into perspective and make strides to becoming a more decent people and nation.
March 2, 1991
It was good to hear from you. As the song goes --- "the days dwindle down to a precious few."
In view of my recent birthday I find the song appropriate. Patti I think a talk between us is the answer to some of our differences. There are extremists on both sides of every issue. Reasonable people should look into both sides and see if every charge or countercharge is justified by the facts. Even if there are differences does this justify a family separation? We can disagree on things without abandoning our family relationship. I remember a little girl who sat on my lap and asked me to marry her.
Love --- Dad
Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors:
GLENN: We have -- we've heard the America is a dysfunctional family a lot. But if you'll indulge me here for a second. I have some framework here that I would like to share with you that I think wraps up the longest and most contentious election cycle, at least in my lifetime.
I don't know what your family is like. But my family is very dysfunctional. And there are things that we don't agree on. And there are things that we have pounded each other on. And there are old scars and old wounds in our family that go deep. There are deep distrusts and misunderstandings and -- and -- and just -- there's a lot of problems in our family. But I think that's what every family is like.
They're still my family. But for a reason.
What we've learned about our family or what we look -- if we look at our family, especially if we have a dysfunctional one, what you can learn from that dysfunctional family may be the secret to healing these bitter divisions that are tearing us apart as a nation.
I've shared with you this letter before, a letter from Ronald Reagan to his daughter Patti. He was estranged from Patti. And he writes this beautiful letter, and he says, you know, in light of my birthday and everything that's going on, the song comes to mind as the days dwindle by -- and dwindle to a few cherished days. We -- we know it's true.
He writes this beautiful letter to her, where he says, Patti, can't we come together, please?
He -- he writes to Patti -- now, I didn't know this, but this was over a 20-year period. This was the 14th letter he wrote to her over a 20-year period. And they were all the same.
And every single letter said, "Please, let us put our differences beside." Now, remember, she wrote an autobiography. She tore him apart. She was drugs, alcohol.
He never gave up on her, even though the story goes is that this letter that we have is -- was sold for drug money. It was one of the last ones he wrote. A desperate plea, trying to do anything to have his daughter come back into the family. This letter is really, really touching, they had been estranged for 17 years. And it has a ton of wisdom in it.
He starts with a kind word, how much he loves her and misses her. And then he says, "Can we please come together?" And this is now three years before -- two years before he's diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He's celebrating his 80th birthday. And he understood that speaking and listening, dialogue, not monologue, is the first step to reconciliation. And that's what he called for.
He said, "My time to come back together with you is running out. Please, the days are dwindling down to a sacred few."
And he suggests that we come together and we have a conversation. We hear each other out. And he said, even -- even if there are differences, does this mean that we -- we should abandon one another?
He said, "And there's always charges and countercharges, but we should listen to each other to see if those charges are even true."
Ronald Reagan, as a man, not a president, as a dad, understood that reasonable minds will disagree. But he says, "Even if there are differences, which there will be in every family -- and, quite honestly, there will be in a country of 320 million people. Do they justify the end of a relationship?
Can't we disagree without abandoning one another?
I'm a pretty flawed guy, and you know that. But I'm a guy who tries to admit my mistakes. And one of my mistakes was while the Trump supporters took Donald Trump seriously, but not literally, I took him literally and not seriously.
And he's my president now. And I will support him. But I want to do so and keep my values and the things that I learned from the last presidency.
I've been trying to bring people together under a banner of shared ideals and principles and values, but I realized, that's not what -- that's not how families work.
We don't come together necessarily because of shared values and principles. We don't. There's something else that comes into play. What is it?
It's more than blood. I mean, your family -- does your family agree on everything? My family argues a lot. But yet, we still come together.
Because each member chooses to do so. Because in the end, we know, "These are the people that will be with you for the rest of your life."
The last line of the letter that Ronald Reagan wrote to Patti, it's beautiful. We've posted it at GlennBeck.com or soon will be posting it. You have to read it.
But he says: I remember a little girl that once sat on my lap and asked me to marry her.
We have so many shared memories as Americans. What might we conjure up that might help us feel for one another again, despite our differences?
It's a choice that each of us have to make.
I told you last hour that I made the wrong choice with my grandmother. And I regret it -- at least once a week, I think of my grandmother in this way, just a passing thought.
Three years after this letter was sent, Patti reconciled with her dad. He died ten years later. He was already in the throes of Alzheimer's.
She remained close to her mom until her mom died 12 years after that. Now, I don't know Patti Davis, but I would imagine she regrets the 20 years she lost with her father and mother.
I'm sure she cherishes the 22 years that she would have lost, but decided instead that the differences didn't justify a separation.
The reason why I bring this up is today, regardless of who won, we need to listen to one another. I know huge differences exist between us. But they don't justify the bitter divide that is tearing us apart. That's a function of politics.
The next time you engage with somebody who you disagree with, follow the pattern of Ronald Reagan's letter. Start with a kind word and a touch of humility and humanity.
Remember that as Americans, we share a common experience and identity. When it comes to the facts, question with boldness. See if every charge or countercharge is true. And if there -- if those countercharges aren't true or those charges aren't true, reconcile them. Admit where you were wrong.
Ask forgiveness for when you're wrong. And if the differences are there and the countercharges are true and the differences still remain, that's okay.
Think long and hard of whether they're so significant that they justify terminating your familial relationship.
I was helping Raphe memorize some Founding Fathers' quotes this weekend. And one was from Ben Franklin that I had never heard: Be slow to make friends, but be slower still to lose one.
And we talked about it. And what he meant was, you can't really make a friend in a short period of time. A friend is somebody who is by your side through thick and thin. And you know when it's the worse, they're still there for you.
We haven't been that way to each other. How can we possibly say we're friends when we haven't been there for each other?
We need to be there. Half the country feels like they've had their teeth kicked in today.
But be slower still to lose friends. Meaning, once those people have proven themselves to you, question over and over and over again on why you would say, "This one point is enough to drive a wedge."
Featured Image: Ronald Reagan's letter, penned to his daughter Patti in 1991.