We the People
We the people have blood on our hands. All of us, because like it or not, we are all in this together. The murderous three days we have witnessed are again a stark and tragic reminder of our broken discourse, our entrenched racism, our inadequate gun regulations, and our broken hearts.
By world standards, we are a young nation, and mired in what seems to be our national adolescence. How long are we going to loudly and childishly continue our tantrum? Will our stamping feet facilitate additional tragedies for more families? Why can’t we work toward solving problems, instead of all this infighting?
We fight about race and religion, African Americans and Muslims. We fight about LGBT people and rest rooms. We fight about whose God is the right god. We fight about guns and terrorism, about which constitutional amendment bears more weight: the right to bear arms, or the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We fight . . .
The underpinning of most of these tantrums is fear. It’s easy to buy into; among other outcomes, fear drives political campaigns and gun sales. It fosters mistrust and hatred; and it seems like the easy way out.
But it isn’t.
Maybe I have learned some personal lessons. Twice I have married into Republican families complete with edges of racism, a belief in creationism, and misogyny, not to mention a penchant for guns. I had to learn to be respectful, because whether I agreed with my in-laws or not, or that their questions irked me, I owed them respect. When my in-laws put me on the spot, I did not answer their loaded questions; to do so would have lit a tempest fire. Instead I made jokes, excused myself to the call of nature, and as elegantly as possible, bowed out. That James Carville and Mary Matalin have thrived in both politics and as marriage partners proves it can be done.
Two years ago we cleaned out my in-laws home, and I found a stash of political memorabilia: buttons, poster and stickers for Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, and George Wallace, with his eerily familiar slogan, “Stand Up For America”. I saved all of it.
We hope and pray that our leaders will guide us out of this quagmire in the way that good parents shape and mold recalcitrant children. But when congressmen and senators must sit on the floor of the House of Representatives in an attempt to procure a vote, something is woefully wrong. Many of us watched in horror as the other side packed up their toys and went home. If this is leadership, the expectation that the rest of us will somehow behave more rationally, with respect and civility toward one another, seems less likely than ever.
With a national election just around the bend, I worry that in this divided nation the candidate who fosters fear and racism could prevail. He’s gotten much closer than George Wallace ever did—Wallace’s campaign ended in an assassination attempt—and although Wallace was a Democrat, his radical views were far outside of the party’s mainstream, and much more aligned with the current Republican candidate. I wonder what this election cycle says about us as a nation, what that says about the state of racism, misogyny, and tolerance in America.
I worry too, that the fourth estate has mostly left the building and is encamped in the bankers’ backyards, too busy reading the Neilson ratings. Bias prevails where it was once verboten.
But mostly I worry that in our beleaguered nation, the fear that drives violence and guns will continue to overtake reasonable people; that gun deaths will rise exponentially with new gun sales.
It is up to all of us to be well informed, to listen to each other respectfully. It is up to us to look at what is presented and to become critical thinkers, to learn to examine what is presented as truth and discern when more self-serving interests guide politicians and the media.
The only answer to any of this is to walk in love, act with compassion, embrace courage, speak truth, bring joy, and seek improvement for our world.