Shanti Emerson: Can’t we all just get along?
The last column I wrote was way outside my comfort zone. I had been writing laudatory articles, but last time, I jumped in with both feet to the most divisive current issues: abortion, gun laws, immigration, and health care.
The point was that the political pendulum has swung so far left and so far right that it has left many of us behind. Can we find a common middle ground?
Cartoonist Bob Crabb advised me to check the comments about my column online. I’d been hit by someone on the far left and another on the far right, neither wanting to compromise or even hear the other side’s point of view. However, I got this compliment, “Shanti, I appreciate what you are saying. A lot of the discussion comes down to personal values and principals and a willingness to listen. Thanks for you thoughts, Dan Miller.” Thanks, Supervisor Dan. It’s good to know that you, right of center, and me, left of center, can find common ground.
The reader on the right said that the Democrats had killed Abraham Lincoln! He doesn’t seem to realize that the parties’ values and positions have switched over the years, and Lincoln would today choose the party which has protected the civil rights of minorities. Also, assassin John Wilkes Booth was a member of the Know Nothing Party. Just Google him. You’ll see.
Around town, I was surprised at the way readers approached me. They would whisper in my ear, “I’m a moderate, too,” as if afraid someone might hear them. It’s OK to be a moderate. It’s OK to see both points of view. In fact, it’s admirable.
Being brought up in the Eisenhower years, I experienced living under a president who was deeply respected and loved by the American people. Both political parties asked him to be their candidate, and he worked hard with the Congress to build consensus. I believe there was a peace and pride in our country then that we have not since attained.
I think most Americans seem to be more loyal to their political party than their country. It seems that they would rather win the vote than be at peace. They want to prevail (even humiliate the other side) rather than share in decision making.
When we look at the political map of our country, it is shaded red and blue for Republican and Democrat. But a better description is rural and urban. Nevada County is full of both … people who have lived here for generations and transplants from the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
The influence of the relative newcomers has made a huge influence in our county … in the arts, the housing supply, the membership in charitable organizations, and politics. They come in with fresh ideas and broad perspectives. The people who have lived here for generations hold our agricultural businesses together and fill our schools.
One of the biggest differences between rural and urban living is racial and cultural diversity. When I lived and taught in Southern California, and later in San Francisco, I dealt with people of every skin color and religion every day. Other than my partner, I rarely see people of color here … and that makes a big difference in understanding our country and its values.
There isn’t a lot of interfacing with our two groups, which is unfortunate as each has so much to learn from the other. Such interaction would take tolerance, tact and maturity. It would take the understanding that even though people see things in a different way according to their experiences, they are as concerned about our county and country as we are.
It is “My Country tis of thee,” not “My Party tis of thee.” Partisan politics is the millstone around the neck of our democracy. We do need political parties to keep things from going too far one way or the other, to keep our equilibrium, but it is the middle that keeps us from tipping over.
I found this online: “During the past two weeks the country has been absorbed in watching the progress of a strategic struggle between the Republican and Democratic leaders on the floor of the House of Representatives, and party passion has been reawakened by stirring speeches and eloquent reproductions of past history. But however strong the interest excited by the keen co-ate (sic): it is impossible to review the actual condition of public affairs without perceiving that whatever time is now devoted to partisan programs is necessarily deducted from the aggregate of attention demanded on’ behalf of national concern?, and that there never was a period when influence in partisanship was more emphatically reactionary to the general interests.” This was written in 1879 in the Sacramento Daily Union … so this has been going on for a long, long time.
So for the common good of our county and our country, let us go forward in 2020 with clear hearts and minds and be brave enough to listen carefully to others.
Let’s show respect for other points of view and try to explain ours in the clearest way possible.
Isn’t unity the most patriotic stance we can take? Is that too much to ask?
Shanti Emerson is a Nevada County resident and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. She can be reached at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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