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Our View: Making a good citizen

We need more people like Lou Conter.

The World War II veteran and survivor of the USS Arizona turned 100 this week. That’s a milestone few of us will reach, and one worth recognizing and celebrating.

When you consider the person who reached it, it’s also worth honoring.



Conter has gotten a lot of ink in these pages, and rightfully so. This community has time and again held him up as an example of the best of us. Not too many people have experienced what he has, or seen the world change to the degree he’s witnessed.

But those aren’t the only reasons why we celebrate Conter. We recognize him because he’s an example to not only follow, but repeat. We need people who selflessly serve our country, now more than ever. Especially in the wake of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we must remember that what’s important is this country’s unity, not the divisions created by its political parties.




But our country, like those parties, is nothing without the people that comprise it. We can disagree with those on the other side of the aisle, but we have to remember that we’re all part of the same nation.

In other words: Out of many, one.

For that one nation to be unified, it must be filled with good citizens.

How do you define that? Is it someone who joins the military and fights for their country? Is it the volunteer who packages and distributes food to people in need? Is it the protester who, as John Lewis said, stirs up “good trouble” as the police put on the handcuffs?

Examples of good citizens are found in all of these people, as well as countless others across the country. There is no mold for the good citizen. They come in all shapes and beliefs, and they can disagree with each other and often do.

Disagreeing with others does not make them the enemy, despite what some would have us believe. Civil argument forces us to reassess our beliefs, and sometimes change them when warranted. It also reminds us that we do not live in a vacuum, and we share our society with people who don’t think the way we do.

And despite all the things that divide us and place us in different camps, we still unify around the country we call home. We want it preserved, we want it safe, we want to leave it in better shape for our children.

This, hopefully, we can agree on.

We are still dealing with the aftermath of a contentious presidential election, and the gubernatorial recall is still large in the rear view mirror. We can disagree about who should lead us, and still work together toward improving the country and ourselves.

Nevada City’s Constitution Day parade may be canceled, but its spirit hasn’t. We honor that document just as we honor people like Lou Conter — for the example they provide, and road map they give us for how we can live better lives.

Few of us will amass the level of accolades a World War II veteran will have, and that’s fine. We can accumulate our own, in our own way, and in small actions that have big impacts over time.

We can live and act beyond ourselves, knowing that our actions affect others, and caring about that. We can get the vaccine, because it’s not only about the individual, but the greater whole. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy, we can stop focusing on what this nation can do for us, and instead work on what we can do for this nation.

Those are the types of people we need more of.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com


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