Four years ago, I sat at this very computer (I know, I could use an upgrade) and wondered how the presidential election would change things in America. I wrote the following: “Whatever the results of the election, we are all still Americans. The sun will come up in the morning, and life will go on. The best possible outcome would be that whoever is leading our country when the dust clears, we ignore those who believe our best days are behind us, and those who predict the future will only bring darker days. The truth is, the only thing we can control is what happens to us today in our small corner of the world. It is up to us to make the most of that opportunity.”
My desire at that historic moment was the same as it is today, that the people of this nation could and can work together to make things better, not continue to allow political affiliations to tear us apart.
There is no question the citizenry is even more divided than it was in 2016. I believe much of the blame for that lies at the feet of a leader who has worked hard to create the rift, rather than repair it as he promised he would. But, he is certainly not responsible for all the mean-spirited back and forth between those who have differing political philosophies. I still believe what I wrote 36 months ago: we can make a difference on a local level. That is where we live and work each day. Yes, national policy can affect us, but how we treat each other in our families and local neighborhoods is the most important way we can heal.
I have avoided any kind of political theme in my column for a number of months in the hopes that I would not be responsible for another round of kicking the hornets’ nest. I don’t want to be on the opposite side of many of my friends and family members, so I have mostly avoided discussing my views. Experience has shown me that I am likely not going to change any minds, anyway. I am wasting my breath if I get into arguments with those whose views differ greatly from mine.
To be honest, I have also been a bit fearful to express my opinion. Threats and intimidation unfortunately have been part of the landscape this political season. Vandalism to banners and signs has taken place, even in the smallest of Marion County towns, where all residents know each other the most intimately. Those same banners and flags have sometimes been used to loudly proclaim political affiliation in a way that can only be viewed as threatening toward the other side.
So, where do we go from here? What course can we take that will truly start to heal the wounds that have been festering for half a decade?
The last time I can remember a coming together of people was after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, when terrorists from outside dared to attack the country. In that moment, we were all Americans. We all felt the pain. We understood how fragile our existence really was. People went out of their way to be nicer to others. For a moment, we were no longer Republicans and Democrats; we were brothers and sisters under a common threat. And, we responded by being better neighbors and citizens.
We are in the midst of another existential threat to our country. One that has destroyed the lives of more than a quarter-million U.S. citizens. But, instead of working together to defeat COVID-19, some have chosen to oppose efforts to rid our country of this menace. They have refused to cooperate and have failed to follow guidelines set out by the best medical minds we have at our disposal. There is no doubt that the advice from best and brightest has changed from time to time, just as viruses have been know to mutate. But, we are still obligated to do the best we can to follow the instructions we receive based on the best information we have available at the moment.
In the days, weeks and months that followed the 9/11 attack, many vowed that we would never forget the lessons from that moment. It seems that 19 years later, however, we may have. Let’s once again revisit that promise to work together as a nation to rid ourselves of anger and resentment and unite in healing our people, both physically and in spirit.