Regardless of your political persuasion, there has been no shortage of ironic hypocrisy, hostility, cynical sniping, sarcastic smugness, labeling, hate speak and irrational hyperbole over the last several months leading up to the presidential election.
and political pundits have made careers out of it and we all have
friends and family who are terrific at slicing and dicing the politics
it feels good to be snarky in your observations of those you have
differences of opinion and it can surely feel more safe to remain
insulated in your world-view bubble.
isn’t likely this type of behavior is going to end any time soon. After
all, it is a traditional aspect of free speech in our country.
being said, the toxicity has reached dangerous levels that do not
suggest anything but more bitter differences for the near future, and
that is troubling as we wrestle with finding our way toward a future we
can all be proud of in this great country.
an open mind with people who seem closed to your views is extremely
difficult to do and treating others with respect while they hold your
views or even you in contempt requires superhuman patience and
tolerance. Nonetheless, this is what we need to strive for if we are
going to find a path to civility and productivity. The recent
presidential campaign did more than expose an already existing divide
between two Americas occupying the same land. It drove a wedge into our
common ground, separating parents from children, wives from husbands,
rural folk from urban folk, people who have college degrees and people
Era of toxic rhetoric
the 1960s, the generations were split by diverging opinions concerning
the war in Vietnam, civil rights, popular music and other issues of a
society in transformation. But we’d have to go back to the 1860s to find
an era when the rhetoric was so pervasively toxic.
Lincoln saw the storm gathering as he delivered his first inaugural
address in January 1861. Even as the newly formed Confederate States of
America gathered its troops, the new president pleaded for restraint in
word, thought and deed:
are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion
may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic
chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to
every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet
swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will
be, by the better angels of our nature.”
is tragic that his words fell on deaf ears. Within three months,
Americans marched to war against each other. More than 620,000 Americans
died in the Civil War and more than a million were injured before it
one expects the social divisions of our day will lead to massive death
and destruction on this scale. But I’m not alone in thinking the fabric
of American society has been torn in ways that won’t be easy to mend.
Nevertheless, we must try.
can begin by reminding ourselves we are all sisters and brothers of the
American republic. Wherever we come from, whenever we got here,
whatever we believe, we share a common history of devotion to a common
ideal of a nation dedicated to the proposition that all people are
created equal and our government is created by the people and for the
Teresa, now known as Saint Teresa, wasn’t an American, but she knew the
score when she said: “If we have no peace, it is because we have
forgotten that we belong to each other.”
Union members and Americans, we must never forget we belong to each
other. We must always try to reach into our own hearts and find the
“better angels of our nature.”
can disagree strongly with others’ opinions, but we must never, ever
treat each other with contempt. We must pull back from words of hate and
choose instead the words of love.
would like to end this column by wishing you and your loved ones a
happy holiday season and a new year filled with joy and brotherhood (and
sisterhood). Thank you for all of your work in making our Union
stronger, and thank you for proving to the world, time and time again…