America is experiencing heartbreak after heartbreak -- here's the way forward: Opinion

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death sparked a period of national mourning.

September 21, 2020, 6:30 PM

In our lives, nearly every one of us has had our heart broken in some way. This could be the heartbreak of a relationship that ended or the loss of a loved one either too suddenly or over a lengthy period of time. Our hearts can break over the loss of a job, or a dream we always had which we no longer see as possible.

What do we do through these times? We mourn, we grieve, we get angry, we look inward and outward for insights or healing, and we realize we must continue to live and move forward. Some of us grow bitter, colder, and cynical, we close off our hearts and our love diminishes. Others realize the best path to healing and growth is to open our hearts more, helping others heal due to the empathy we gained from our own losses.

I often feel that the path we are on as individuals tells a broader story about us as members of a broader community and country. I contemplate this once again when we celebrate the life of an American icon -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- grieve the loss of someone who fought for 50 years for the most vulnerable in our society.

So what do we do when our country’s heart breaks?

Today many see America going through a deep heartbreak, a tremendous loss of who we are and the ideals we have been rooted in for more than two centuries. Our heart breaks as a country when we watch millions of people suffer through a pandemic that could have been lessened through leadership. We grieve as we watch sexism, racism and racial injustice rear their ugly heads around the country. Our heart as a country feels such loss when we watch leaders mislead, lie, and practice some of the rankest forms of hypocrisy. We are saddened as fellow Americans whom we called friends and intimates either support the ugliness or look the other way because they feel justified because they are “winning.”

We all know the best path when we suffer our own heartbreak, but how about as a country? I would suggest that the path forward is the same for the United States. We must grieve, we can get angry, we must look inward and outward to understand and then we have a choice. Do we become more cynical, lose hope and shut down or do we venture out with hope and greater capacity for empathy and compassion and begin to build a country we can trust and fall back in love with?

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I understand why folks descend into darkness in the midst of our country’s heartbreak, but if we want to heal, the only way out is to move towards the light. It is to be motivated and touched by the loss, and what we have learned about ourselves, to create an America that is built on integrity, decency and a shared sense of virtue where the whole is more important than tribes. It is an America that has learned from its mistakes and losses, and becomes bigger of heart and more humble of spirit so we can not only lead our own citizens to the promised land of the broader good and justice, but the entire world once again.

I have learned through my own loss that, yes, time heals, though time on its own will not do the job. It is venturing out again with hope and faith, and serving a cause greater than ourselves hand-in-hand with others that allows us to laugh and love once again. Our country needs and deserves the same. The last chapter of any great love story is not the heartbreak which the main characters experience, but overcoming adversity and finding a new and more expansive place.

Let us not let America’s heartbreak be the end of our nation’s story. We can write a new chapter of redemption and hope having learned about ourselves and others.

Matthew Dowd is the chief political analyst for ABC News. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.

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