With the parade, the fireworks, the Fourth of July picnics, and all the celebration of our great nation and the freedoms we enjoy, perhaps there is also room for a little reflection on the current state of affairs in our nation, some of which is not good. Amidst the positive calls for unity, respectful discourse, and working together to solve our problems, there is another negative voice calling out in anger and intolerance for those of differing views and backgrounds. The question arises: Which voice represents the true America, and which will make us stronger rather than weaker?
I believe Abraham Lincoln got it right when he said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The Press editorial on the Fourth of July titled “United We Stand for a Strong USA” made a solid case for unity and respecting our diversity — while focusing on the things we have in common. In the same edition, McKay Cunningham, a constitutional law scholar, paid homage to the Constitution as a unifying document that also allows debate and disagreement. Both express a hopeful view of our country’s strengths based on the documents created by our Founding Fathers.
On the same editorial page was a letter from the negative voice expressing anger and using hateful language to describe those of a liberal persuasion. It was a letter that created division, fear, and anger rather than hope and healing. The noted historian Jon Meacham, in his latest book, “The Soul of America,” discussed the politics of fear and how it has appeared at different times in our history. He wrote: Fear points at others, assigning blame, hope points ahead, working for a common good … Fear divides, hope unites.”
Mr. Miller, your letter was divisive and disparaging of those who are more liberal than you. What are you afraid of that makes you fear and dislike liberals so much? Do your ears burn when someone writes about conservatives the way you write about liberals? Wouldn’t it be better if we could respect one another enough to have real dialogue about our differences? Doing so we might find we have much in common, like our love for our country and what it stands for.
Dale Bosworth, the former head of the U.S. Forest Service, said: “Collaboration means coming together with those you disagree with, suspending your distrust, and accepting that they may have a legitimate interest and role to play. Then it means finding common ground and coming to some agreement based on the goals you share.” To do that we must accept that the other parties’ values and interests are just as valid and important to them as ours are to us. If our nation is to be united and strong, this is the attitude we must carry forward. It is the attitude that our Founding Fathers embodied when they hammered out our Constitution.
Hurling invective at one another, abusive use of stereotyping, name calling, etc. do more harm than good. As a nation we are becoming how we are behaving. We can stand firm in our convictions without denying the convictions of others. It’s time to do what Lincoln suggested, and let the “better angels of our nature” prevail. In the midst of this hot summer, maybe we should all just cool it!
George Sayler of Coeur d’Alene is a former teacher, state legislator and city council member.