Gary Litke: Let’s get better
Former President Obama began his participation in the election season with a speech at the University of Illinois.
As I watched and listened, it was impossible not to compare his words and spirit to those of President Trump; eloquent to childlike, inspiring to demeaning, hopeful and reassuring to angry and resentful.
Obama used the occasion to urge everyone to vote, not for party and strict ideology, but to vote for the ideas and aspirations that will make our country better, that will make the lives of all those who live in our great country “better.” That is the true meaning of bipartisanship in that it requires everyone to listen, understand and commit to finding better ways forward together, regardless of party, race, religion, place of birth or who you love.
As President Obama said, “Better’s always worth fighting for. That’s how our founders expected this system of self-government to work; that through the testing of ideas and the application of reason and evidence and proof, we could sort through our differences and nobody would get exactly what they wanted, but it would be possible to find a basis for common ground.”
Obama’s words were meant for both sides of the political aisle, both ideological sides in an ever-increasing war of words and hostility.
“We need cooperation among people of different political persuasions. And to make that work, we have to restore our faith in democracy. We have to bring people together, not tear them apart. We won’t win people over by calling them names, or dismissing entire chunks of the country as racist, or sexist or homophobic. We have to engage them even when it is frustrating; we have to listen to them even when we don’t like what they have to say; we have to hope that we can change their minds and we have to remain open to them changing ours.”
I found his words encouraging, making me hopeful again for the first time in almost two years. I know that all of us, regardless of political party, progressive or conservative beliefs, share common values of honesty, respect and integrity. Those have to be universal truths in a democracy, if democracy is to exist.
President Trump’s response to Obama’s message?
“I fell asleep.”
To me that says it all. As I often told my students, in every situation there are only three choices: you can keep it the way it is, make it worse or make it better. Making it better is the hardest of the three to accomplish. It is easy to do nothing, it is easy to be cynical, angry or apathetic, but it is hard to make meaningful change that makes things “better.”
We must start that change now and through the coming months as the November elections approach. If the words and deeds of our current president do not reflect your values and beliefs you must make one of the three choices.
If you believe that the president of the United States, regardless of party must represent values that say you don’t lie, you don’t cheat to win, you don’t bully others to get what you want, you don’t demean those who are not like you or oppose you, then it is imperative that you vote your conscience, not your party.
It is the only way to be “better.”
Gary Litke lives in Grass Valley.
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