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Luke Combs and Tracy Chapman are healing our divide

Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs on stage

Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs perform "Fast Car" at the Grammys.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Nevins is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and co-founder and board chairman of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

I, like so many Americans, loved watching Luke Combs, a 33-year-old white country singer, join Tracy Chapman, a 59-year-old gay and Black artist, in singing her 1989 hit “Fast Car” at last week’s Grammys.

I was moved by the performance not only because “Fast Car” has been one of my favorite songs for over 30 years but also because seeing Chapman and Combs on stage together gave me hope that the work I do with The Bridge Alliance to bring our country together and to heal the divide that separates us might actually have a chance to succeed.

Who could be more different than Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs? Combs is a star of a genre not known to embrace Black and gay audiences. A recent study by data journalist Jan Diehm Jada Watson reported that fewer than 0.5 percent of songs played on country radio in 2022 were by women of color and LGBTQ+ artists. But there Combs was on the stage, obviously moved by the moment as he sang with Chapman.

Yes, the political rhetoric and divisiveness are worse than ever. And yes this was just one moment in time on a stage, but the viral moment that it has become shows there’s a chance that We the People want more and will rise above the political gamesmanship and rhetoric.

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I’ve felt for a long time that music can glue people together, multiply an audience's energy and join us so that we are more than the sum of our parts.

Isn’t that what democracy in America should be? Ultimately won’t the success of our nation rest on our ability to harness the tension of our differences and learn to work toward fulfilling the dream of the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans?

And so as the dysfunction continues in the political world, with each side blaming the other, I am inspired by the coming together of two very different people who, for just that moment, took us all away from the divisions and hatred and blame game,to a moment of love and a sense of empathy.

If our democracy is to succeed, we must embrace our diversity, provide room for diverse perspectives and embrace our diversity as the operating system of our country.

I believe America is exceptional because from the outset its citizens saw themselves as participants in an experiment that would have implications for all of mankind. The journey that is the United States started more than 200 years ago with the motto e pluribus unum: Out of many, we are one. That can become a reality.

As the lyric says, I have “a feeling we can be someone one.” But first “We’ve got to make a decision.”

Let’s make that decision now. Let us fulfill the dream.

Enjoy and relive that moment from the Grammys:

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Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs perform "Fast Car" at the Grammys.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Luke Combs, politics and healing our nation's divide

Nevins is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and co-founder and board chairman of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

It’s been a year and a half since I wrote about “The Great Divide,” Luke Combs' song written by Naomi Judd, Paul Overstreet and John Barlow Jarvis. I was moved by the tremendous response I received, and that article is still one of The Fulcrum’s most-read posts.

The lyrics are as powerful today as they were in November 2023:

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“I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions,” she wrote in an Instagram post, “but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG. I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.”

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It’s no secret that pop culture in America has amazing healing and connecting powers. Throughout history, we’ve seen how artists, entertainers, athletes and creators of every kind invite us into a space of transcendence that leads to connectivity. We see that when we join people together their energy can be harnessed for good, and then amplified and scaled.

Certainly comedy fits in perfectly. Laughter is the embodiment of depolarization. Just consider that in order for something to evoke laughter, it has to have the capacity to both hold tension and release tension at the same time. And so we invite you to join Bridge Entertainment Labs tomorrow at 4 pm Eastern for “What’s Making Us Laugh? What Role Does Comedy Play in Pulling Us Together — or Driving Us Apart?”

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