A couple of months ago Brian Protheroe penned a letter to the Gazette advancing the idea that we need a great national divorce. He suggested we find a way to amicably divvy up the community property. The “blues” would get the coasts, the Great Lakes, and any other piece of valuable real estate. The “reds” would get what’s left.
I’ve had some time to think about it and I’ve decided I’m more partial to the philosophy of Woodie Guthrie. As I sit here typing I’m wandering back in my mind’s eye to September 13, 2011. Like everyone else in America, Nancy and I were numb from the pain of the 11th. We were sitting on a train of shell-shocked pilgrims bound from Williams, Arizona to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. About fifteen minutes into the trip a troubadour made his rounds from car to car, singing an old standard. As he did, the words reverberated, reminders of the things that bound us together: “This land is your land; this land is my land, from California to the New York islands. From the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters, this land was made for you and me.” By the time he’d moved on there wasn’t a dry eye to be found.
I refuse to accept the notion that it’s time to part ways. The redwood forests are every bit as much mine as they are Mr. Protheroe’s. The gulf stream waters are every bit as much his as they are mine. The same holds true for our Constitution and Bill of Rights. We share these things in common. They’re OURS.
Divorces are messy. Rarely, if ever, are they amicable. They’re painful; everyone loses. Mr. Protheroe may think divorce is a good idea. I don’t.
America’s been down that road before. Before the divorce and bloodletting began, Abraham Lincoln pleaded with the nation in his first inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” He asked America to look deep within its collective heart so that it could be “touched by the better angels of its nature.”
Tragically, the plea was ignored. The result was four years of death and destruction on an apocalyptic scale. If we’re not careful about how we approach our differences now, I fear this could be where we’re headed. We must not go there.
If coming together is essential to our national well-being, how do we get there? It’s a difficult question to answer. The sounds of division and discord seem to be omnipresent. Our dialogue, if it can be called that, has become rooted in rigidity and hate. Too few of us have any appetite for the once tried and true American notion of live and let live. There’s a new rule of community life. Our philosophical opposites must bend to our will. If they don’t, they’ll be exorcised like demons.
The anger is becoming white hot. A week or so ago, Dan Cathy, owner of the Chick-fil-A, responded to a question about marriage. Had he responded to the question three or four years ago he would have been in the majority. But, times have changed. A May 10, 2012 Gallup poll revealed that 50% of us favored same-sex marriage and 48% opposed it. Cathy expressed what has become a minority opinion. His response, understandably, angered many in the gay community. But, when politicians entered the fray, the issue became even more explosive. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel declared that “Chick-fil-A’s values aren’t Chicago’s values” and threatened to deny Cathy franchise licenses. It was like lighting a stick of dynamite.
Given the shallowness of our leaders, how can we possibly come together?
We need to bypass the politicians and have a national chicken and ice cream social, with Chick-fil-A catering the chicken and Ben and Jerry catering the ice cream. A gentle conversation over some good spicy chicken and a cup of Chunky Monkey or Cherry Garcia might do us a world of good.
We can overcome our differences. I’ve seen it done in my lifetime. I’m a conservative, evangelical Christian. One of the most rewarding professional experiences I’ve ever had was serving with two other engineers, one a devout Muslim and the other a lesbian. We were acknowledged as the best of the best, not only because of our professional competence, but because we truly learned to love and value one another. Not once in our two years together did we expect our mates to bend to our respective wills. It wasn’t always easy, but we did it.
That’s the way America should work. That’s the way we must make it work! If we refuse, I fear the divorce and the mayhem that follows will destroy us.