Over the last several months, political division has scorched the United States. 

Such division can be attributed to the ever-increasing polarization of political identities and ideologies resulting from the election of Donald Trump. Regardless of one’s personal views on the president, Americans have suffered a political and ideological split within our population because of the way Trump handles many situations. 

President Trump’s decisions and words are almost always met with severe backlash from one side and justification or praise from the other. The tension has become palpable and heated. But despite all that has transpired, and in quite an inexplicable and sudden turn of events, Americans seemed to be able to look past the politics and division to join in solidarity over two particular natural phenomena, “The Great American Eclipse” and Hurricane Harvey.

What was striking and revealing about Harvey and the eclipse was that, despite the tension permeating our political scene, they reminded us that we remain one nation. When the solar eclipse took place on Aug. 21 of this year, Americans from all over, of all backgrounds, rushed outside to enjoy an exceedingly rare and historic event that affected us all. 

What I loved most about the eclipse was that it was a day when we could all appreciate something together. Americans were hopeful, excited and in awe over something that happens once in a lifetime.

When Hurricane Harvey hit the U.S., we all felt its effects. Although Texas received the heaviest blow, Americans from all over cooperated in order to provide relief and send aid to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. There were roughly 850 GoFundMe campaigns that raised $4.5 million, which has been used to set up shelters and provide food to those impacted by Harvey. Americans from everywhere volunteered and provided whatever kind of help they could. President Trump even shocked the nation by making a deal with congressional Democrats, raising the debt ceiling to assist Americans in need of immediate help.

My biggest takeaway from these two major events is that, when it is most important, Americans can come together. Even if we disagree with each other when it comes to politics, if we know we can band together for moments that matter to us all, then we can and should come together each and every day, even when we argue over issues that are not as widely relevant as a natural disaster. By coming together, that does not imply that we all have to agree on everything, but rather that we can (and should) be willing to continue a long-lasting dialogue with one another without resorting to violence, hate, racism or narrow-mindedness.

It is extremely important that we all participate in this dialogue because, after all, America was founded on democratic ideals, enabling us to be free not only of body, but also of mind. Whenever we disagree with each other, we should be open to debate and sharing one another's views. Through active listening, we demonstrate respect and open-mindedness. 

Exclusion only leads to more division. Our country needs healing now more than ever, and the best way to provide that is to be willing to speak in an open forum where we can all come to the table and communicate with each other as fellow human beings and citizens of the United States.

Contact opinion writer Alex Rigsby at alexander.rigsby@richmond.edu.