I have been writing this article in my head for the past week, and now that Ukraine has been invaded and perhaps by now, conquered, my thoughts remain the same, and they are that the level of dissent in the United States of America plays directly into the hands of the leaders of Russia and China, and so threatens the freedoms of Americans in the future.

Russia and China have entered into a mutual aid pact that has as a major goal the lessening of America’s power in the world. Putin and Xi Jinping each want the same thing—more.

More Russia, more China, more power. They each feel that their historic territories have been compromised and that they deserve to have them back. For Putin this means Ukraine for now and other nations later. For Xi it is Taiwan.

Some in America say, “so what?” It’s no business of ours. Except that it is our business because Putin and Xi have made it so. It is complex, but it boils down to two men who want absolute power. It is unknown whether they represent the feelings of the people they lead because they control the media. It is also immaterial because neither of them cares.

To think the unthinkable, what if they are successful in taking over America. Do you think there is an attack on Christianity in America? In Russia it is against the law for any church other than the Russian Orthodox Church to preach the Gospel. Those that attempt to do so are fined. Do you worry about creeping gun control in America and that mask mandates are the stuff of treason? Xi won’t make us wear masks, but he sure as hell won’t let us keep our weapons.

A wedge is a powerful tool, used to split wood or to split nations. Feeding misinformation, lies, and anger are wedges and Putin and Xi are experts at using them. It’s how they got to where they are. Using wedges through cyberattacks in social media is textbook tactics for them.

America today is more divided politically than it has been since the Civil War. But even that time people were not as angry with one another as we are today. Then, there was a single issue that was well defined. Now it is a multitude of ill-defined fears, worries, and hatreds that has neighbors condemning each other. It solves nothing. It serves no constructive purpose here; it Is only a gift to Putin and Xi.

“A nation divided against itself cannot stand,” said Lincoln, meaning that America would have to either embrace or reject slavery. He was talking of a different issue in a different time, but in the days of the Civil War France and England waited to see who was going to win before offering their support.

In America, we seem so evenly and bitterly divided that whichever side might prevail in elections the other side will be working against it. Both sides may want a strong America, but as long as they so angrily oppose each other they will make that impossible.

Putin and Xi are not waiting to see who will win, they are actively working to destroy America from within by helping to fan the flames of hate and anger that we have lit ourselves. And they are working together.

We as Americans, we as Montanans must work together, too. It cannot matter what our politics are. It cannot matter what our religion is. It cannot matter what we are or who we are. For our own sake, for our families’ sakes, for our country’s sake we must come together as Americans against a common enemy—two despots who would destroy us so they can gain the power that feeds their souls.

I have friends who voted for Trump. They are good, kind, honest people. I have friends who voted for Biden who are equally good, kind, and honest. They have strong political differences, but they do not yell at each other. People like that give me hope. They differ, but do not hate. I know it can be done.

We did it in the Great Depression, we did it during World War II, we did it after September 11, 2001. We must do it now.

Jim Elliott served sixteen years in the Montana Legislature as a state representative and state senator. He lives on his ranch in Trout Creek.