Sometimes it gets difficult to remain positive in our
world of today. After all, there are many wars going
on, we're on the tail end of a recession that has
decimated the financial well-being of millions of people
(ours included), many people have lost their jobs and many
more continue to do so, our education system is taking hit
after hit by losing money and good teachers and raising
class sizes, and our newscasts are filled with reports of
crime and tragedy and death and destruction.
But of all these things, I think that what is most
discouraging to me is the way that we treat each other,
especially here in the states. One of the things
that always has been a hallmark of America is the fact
that when times have gotten tough, we've stuck
together. We've come together as a united people and
we've worked our ways through our difficulties, overcoming
obstacles and trials together.
Not this time, though. It's unfortunate, but I've
never been witness to such incredibly uncivil treatment as
that which I've seen over the last few years, especially
in the political arena. I've never seen so many
people filled with hatred and anger of others simply
because of religion, politics, national origin, or race.
And what's worse, I've never seen the leaders of this
country involved in such petty bickering and such
mean-spirited attacks on each other. Their modeling
is encouraging many of the people who admire them to do
the same thing, and the polarization of our politics has
become dangerous, as people vent their anger and their own
frustrations of their own lives on the right or the left,
the conservatives or the liberals, the "republitards"
or the "libtards." It's all about
name-calling, insulting, and trying to harm those who
don't hold the same beliefs that we hold, and that's
A country must be run on cooperation if it's to function
well. Unfortunately, though, we have very few role
models who model cooperation to our young today--now
things seem to be all about competition, and it frightens
me to think of how these young people will end up twenty
years from now if they're not exposed to healthy models of
Former U.S. Congressman John Kasich relates this incident
from his own experience:
can remember being in the Congress in 1994, sitting on the
House floor as Pat Schroeder walked by. Pat was a
liberal Democrat from Colorado whom I happened to like. .
. I have regard for people who don't think the way I
think. . . . the Democrats were in the majority at that
time, and right or wrong it was seen as somewhat unusual
for politicians of different stripes to have a friendly
conversation on the House floor, but that's precisely what
we did. Pat had just had a hearing on one of my
bills and passed it out of her committee, so we had a few
things to kick around, and after we'd parted a few
freshman Republicans came up to me and wondered what that
was all about.
"'How could you talk to that woman?' one of them
"It was as if I'd been found guilty of treason--or,
at least, been caught with my hand in some partisan cookie
jar. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
'What's wrong with you?' I shot back. 'Pat Schroeder
is not the enemy. This isn't war. She's one of
"'But she's a liberal Democrat,' came the sheepish
"These newly minted Republican congressmen couldn't
even grasp what I was trying to say to them, that's how
foreign it was to their way of thinking, and I didn't
fault them as much as I did the system they were about to
enter. They were perhaps too green to know any
better--but how to explain the veteran congressmen who
felt the same way? And furthermore, how to explain
that it's gotten worse, in the dozen or so years since
this exchange took place?"
To me, it's also important to wonder how these people were
elected by voters, if all they were going to do was go to
Washington and try to push their own party's agendas,
rather than work together with others--no matter what
their party--to serve the people of their country.
Are we as voters so swayed by political leanings that we
no longer consider which candidate is most likely to serve
his or her constituents well?
Human beings have faced adversity before, and we always
will continue to face it. My hope comes from this
fact. The adversity that we face now is not the same
kind of adversity that we've faced in the past (but which
others in the world continue to face), such as famine,
pestilence, and disease. Rather, the adversity that
we face now is our inability to live and work together in
a civil way. We do so every day in our normal lives,
but even on the job and at school and in our social
settings, people are much less likely to discuss issues
that really matter because of the unfortunate partisanship
that's affecting us all.
But I believe that we will wake up from our current
stupor--that level heads and rational voices will prevail,
and that we will once again find common ground upon which
we can once more work together to build together. We
may not silence the voices that preach hatred and
division, but we can reach a point at which those voices
are seen as what they really are--pathetic little sounds
that do nothing more than attempt to win recognition for
the weak people who speak about and encourage such
destructive things as anger and revenge and
intolerance. We will reclaim our lives and follow
that star that shines uniquely for us, instead of hitching
our wagons to each star that seems to be doing what we
think everyone should be doing.
Tolerance. Cooperation. Unity.
Acceptance. Helpfulness. Encouragement.
These are things that can help us to contribute positively
to the world and help us shine as individuals who are
living their lives fully. And they are things that
can help us to work together to reach our goals of
continuing to recreate a country that still is a very new
experiment in the world, and that still holds much
promise. There still is plenty of room for hope.