We cling tightly to certain dates that commemorate unforgettable events in American history. July 4th is of course the most obvious, celebrating our nation’s Declaration of Independence. December 7th marks the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. June 6th is D-Day. And September 11th is for the terrorist attacks in New York, DC, and rural Pennsylvania. In addition to these days, there should be another one that we remember for its historical significance: September 12th.
Out of the 88,000+ days of our country’s existence, few exhibited such a profound sense of harmony as September 12, 2001. Aside from some assorted a-holes who wanted to play the blame game immediately, we displayed a shared strength that carried the United States through one of its darkest, angriest, and scariest times. On September 12th, amid a wave of organizing blood drives and relief efforts, we developed a deeper appreciation for our country and what she stands for.
As much as September 11th demonstrated how much a few evil individuals could destroy, September 12th revealed that we wouldn’t let that destruction define us or our country. By no means were we perfect on September 12th, but we proved to ourselves how strong we could be if we just worked together, side by side instead of face to face.
September 12, 2001 and September 12, 2019 are polar opposites. While the 2001 version gave us hope in the aftermath of destruction, today’s version gives us destruction in the aftermath of hope.
We have too much hate in our country. You can look at almost any hot button topic in the news today and hate is right there, rearing its ugly face. Republicans vs. Democrats, conservatives vs. liberals, whites vs. minorities, gun owners vs. gun-control advocates, pro-life vs. pro-choice….. everyone’s got a fight to pick. Although a solution remains far-fetched, I join millions of others in declaring that it’s got to stop.
There’s enough blame to go around for everyone. Political leaders are to blame because they won’t acknowledge the hate spewing from their voters. Voters are to blame because they won’t acknowledge the hate spewing from their leaders. If everyone wants to take credit when something goes right, then certainly we should all be taking the blame when things go wrong, like they are currently.
How do we fix this hate? Even though I’m an eternal optimist, I know we’ll never completely shed the hate; this ain’t a Disney movie, after all. However, each one of us can start taking more responsibility for our own words and actions with just a few simple steps:
- Stop viewing someone as your enemy just because they disagree with you. You know that person you hate because they don’t see eye to eye with you? This country belongs to them just as much as it belongs to you. “Your” country is also someone else’s country, too. In the end, it’s not about who “wins” and who “loses.” It’s about doing what’s best for all of us as a nation… an indivisible nation, remember? No one is Hitler. No one is Satan. No one hates America. It’s completely acceptable to disagree, but let’s do it respectfully without name calling and personal attacks.
- Be open to discussion and compromise. All too often, we protect party over country, and we refuse to listen to opposing viewpoints. It’s easy to forget that open dialogue and bipartisanship can lead to mutually beneficial outcomes. Crazy, right? You’re not going to get your way 100% of the time and that’s okay. Learn to deal with it.
- Avoid stereotypes. Can we please stop judging people based on their skin color, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religious beliefs, financial status, what kind of vehicle they drive, how much they weigh, how many tattoos they have, or who they root for on Saturdays in the fall?
- Admit when you’re wrong. Nobody’s perfect. This one is pretty self-explanatory.
I recently finished reading Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith, and while Ike consistently ranks as one of our greatest presidents, he didn’t walk away with the most memorable quote from the book. That honor goes to former Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. Although Rayburn and Eisenhower belonged to opposing parties, Rayburn trusted Ike’s judgment on domestic issues. He refused to intentionally block Ike’s decisions on these issues, saying, “Any jackass can kick a barn down. But it takes a good carpenter to build one.”
So I say to you, do you want to be a carpenter or a jackass? I hope you choose to be a carpenter. Come with me and we’ll build some barns together.