I had just left church and had a sense of deep peace flowing through my veins. Before I even got to my car that morning, though, I spied three women in the parking lot arguing, loudly, over the efficacy of face masks.
Really? Not five minutes after leaving church?
Yet this is where we are right now in America: deeply divided, angry and suspicious of each other.
The country is torn by strife and fury, broken by discord. From the pandemic to racial divide to the presidential election, Americans are fed up with it all and at each other’s throats.
Even at church.
In my mind, I’m back in 1984, the first year I was eligible to cast a vote in a presidential election. Ronald Reagan was campaigning for reelection against Walter Mondale.
“The Gipper” managed one of the most memorable (and laughable) moments in presidential-debate history when asked if he was a bit too old, at age 73, to continue in office.
“I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience,” Reagan quipped, garnering a laugh from Americans across the political spectrum, including Mondale.
Oh, for the 1980s.
Now, some 30 years later, we’ve definitely lost something in our country. Civil debates seems to have been eclipsed by anger and violence and insults. We’ve come to see our opponents, for the most part, as bad people, even mortal enemies. It’s personal and emotional and visceral.
This must change, for we are all Americans. We’re brothers and sisters.
This was brought home to me last night when my husband and I ran into two old friends at the grocery store.
Our sons played on the same basketball team years ago and we have many happy memories of hard-fought games and even a championship title.
Their family is one of the nicest ones we know and we were delighted to see them after so many years – we’ve missed them. We love them and the feeling is mutual.
What’s interesting is that we are on completely opposite ends of the political spectrum. And you know what? I think that’s wonderful. America needs more of this: friendships that cross political boundaries, relationships built on respect, love and good will, not politics.
I grew up in a household where this was demonstrated to me every day. Mom was a loyal Democrat and Dad a staunch Republican. We subscribed to two daily newspapers and watched the national news and local news together every day. At dinner, we talked politics. The debates were sometimes heated but they never, ever, descended into insults and shouting. We were able to joke about it.
It’s different now. Politics had become blood sport and one’s opponents must be utterly destroyed. This, I submit, does not bode well for the country.
I saw an old friend from the 1980s recently. He told me, mournfully, that his son’s grandparents have cut ties with him because of his bumper sticker.
They disagree with him about who should be president and let him now that the two families no longer share the same values.
This is but a microcosm of what is going on in neighborhoods, cities and town all across America. And it has to stop. The alternative, I fear, is civil war.
Let the debate be fierce. Let the reasoned arguments resound. But let’s remember that our political opponents are human beings who bleed red just like us. They are someone’s beloved, just as we are, and they are endowed with the human dignity we all share.
Let’s choose friendship over politics and savor our common bonds over the discord that now runs rampant.
America the beautiful, we need you to turn from the ugliness and remember who you are.
– Joyce Coronel is editor of Wrangler News