In a week in which we should applaud the processes on which this country was founded regardless of the outcome of the election, we actually find ourselves a more fractured nation. Emotions have run high, not just due to the differences in our political beliefs but also because we had the “perfect storm” of divergent concerns all wrapped into one election: race, gender equality, sexual orientation, religion, money, power. Some or all of these things can be found as the impetus of most conflicts throughout history; not just in the U.S. but around the world.
Let me start off by saying to you, Conservative friend, that I love you. I am, as you, an American. While as a political independent (leaning liberal socially and conservative fiscally), I may not agree on every political point as you. However, I am no less American than you. I want the same things you and every other American want: I want my child to have all the opportunities afforded every other kid that grows up with a dream. I want the opportunity to earn a good living, earn a decent wage and live in a decent home. These things are not exclusive to any group.
I also don’t want to support folks that don’t want to work. I don’t believe in a re-distribution of wealth, but I also believe that asking those of us doing better than others to simply pay their fair share is not unreasonable. I see no difference in the welfare mom that refuses to work and the wealthy businessman that pays a tax rate much lower than the common working man struggling to get by. They both are cheating the country and the rest of us. A fancy home or a project apartment is not the arbiter of who’s more right or wrong. They share the shame equally.
But alas, every person on welfare is not a “bum that doesn’t want to work”. Every businessman is not cheating on his taxes. These sweeping generalizations, perpetrated by politicians and the media and adopted by the citizenry of both sides, must go! There is a middle ground, and we have to find it. Fighting each other is not the way to find it. Neanderthals fought each other for superiority, clubbing the weaker being over the head as a means of becoming the Alpha male. In 2012, we are supposed to be more enlightened than that. We pride ourselves as Americans, as being the leaders the rest of the world should follow and emulate. However, there is not much difference in our behavior than that of the foreign lands we see on the evening news. Instead of throwing Molotov cocktails, we throw hurtful words and imagery as a means to hurt or tear down our fellow man. We attempt to use our politics as a hammer against our brothers. In doing so, we are only hurting the collective.
While we may have differences in ideology, culture and tastes, we really are not very different. What our political system, media and other negative influences have done is accentuate our differences for their own purposes. Politicians on both sides exploit our passion for their own gain. The media, primarily cable news networks, have made “stirring the pot” big business! They are less interested in informing us as they are enraging us because to enrage us brings numbers, the numbers = ratings. And in the end, who’s left to suffer? Our nation! More specifically, you and me. Our relationships. Our neighborhoods. Our national pride.
Reading, hearing and seeing the vitriol regarding Obama has been quite troubling. It leaves me questioning where I stand in the world. I’ve seen things come from folks’ mouths that literally have been shocking. More tragically, I have seen others stand by and allow such filth to be spread unchecked. I have seen “men of God” stand by idly, (if not participate!) while this war of words and slander rage on. While I would never begin to tell someone who they should vote for nor expect one not to be disappointed their candidate didn’t win, there is such a thing is dignity and decorum. Hateful adjectives do nothing but fuel the divide so many of us claim to want to mend. Contrary to your political beliefs, Obama is a Christian, Obama loves America, Obama is not trying to steal your freedom, or guns or give your money to people that don’t want to work. Please, be more educated than that! Reasonable people can have a reasonable discourse without resorting to name calling or making inane, baseless comments that don’t mean anything. Obama hates America? Really? And you know this how? Because he disagrees with you? As much as I disagreed with George Bush, and for good, real reasons, I never thought he hated America. Ridiculous.
My mother used to tell me to be mindful of when I speak and what I say. As with most of us, I haven’t always adhered to that. But today, this week, in this moment in the journey of this country, I am becoming ever mindful of that advice. A friend asked me a couple of days ago about how he should appropriately let his Christianity show through in his workplace without “preaching” to people. I believe your actions speak to who you are, much like leaves and fruit tell you the type of tree. I pride myself on holding no grudges, accepting others for who they are and the diversity of my friends. Just as your child may disappoint you at times and you still love them, so have friends of mine on both sides of the aisle. But I still love you. If you have the ability to read this open letter, know that I love you! I know that some of the things said and posted come from a place of disappointment, or repeating what you have heard or just a poor choice of words. I know you love this country and those words may not accurately describe your true being. And I also know that some of you said exactly what you meant and how you feel. I’m glad to know that, too! But instead of retreating or deleting people that disappointed me or burying my head in the sand or worse, retaliating with equally boorish behavior, I am choosing to practice what I preach and love you more! Why? Because God says I must, because my mother raised me to love everybody, and because I believe in America warts and all. And I can’t believe in America while tearing down my fellow Americans and feel good about the action or myself.
So, let’s agree to disagree but find solutions to the issues that plague our country together. Let’s also demand that our leaders put country first and not a political party or agenda. Because doing any else would be un-American.
Stephen E. Terry,
Taylors, South Carolina