What have we become? Who are we? Where are we headed? What now? Our response must be unequivocal: We must heal. Whatever the outcomes of today’s elections, it’s time.
Climate change, the coronavirus, and bitter political fighting ravage our nation. The whole world — all humanity — shares the devastations of climate change and the coronavirus. We share the economic, social and related consequences exacerbated by them. Injustices, untruths and extremism feed our uncertainties. The results are violent demonstrations in many countries.
It’s time to get over it. It’s time to look both within our borders and without. It’s time to recognize that we share, with billions of others, a planet warming dangerously and ravished by pandemic.
Billions of fellow humans whom we’ll never know share these calamities. Ramifications of climate change — extreme fires, droughts, tropical storms, flooding — interact with the pandemic and drive economic upheavals. Underlying much of it is a growing distrust of science, driven by political agendas from a bygone age and fanned by disinformation throughout all media.
It’s not OK to lie, cheat, hate, be rude and hurtful to fellow humans with whom we disagree — as long as we can claim victory. Winning is not “the only thing,” and it’s not even the most important thing. We have to face ourselves in the mirror. We can postpone that reflection, rationalize it, but for each of us, our behavior is ours alone, and there will be a day of reckoning with that still small voice within each of us.
Now is the time to heal. Vindictiveness is unbecoming. We need not disagree disagreeably. We can disagree amicably, learn from the perspectives of others. We don’t need to be hurtful. We can start by following basics, such as the golden rule — common to most religious and ethical systems. We can be civil in spoken and written discourse. Such behavior requires self-honesty, self-restraint, things most of us have practiced in our lives with family, friends, colleagues and even strangers. We need to strengthen that ability.
We need to heal. We really have more in common than we have differences.
Even through masks we can smile at each other, make eye contact. We can initiate better relationships. I can take the initiative with you; you’re free to take the initiative with me. We both can take deep breaths and count to 10 before responding thoughtlessly, hurtfully to an epithet hurled at us, thoughtlessly, hurtfully.
We have a pretty good start here on our own Palouse. Most people are friendly, caring. Most can work together amicably. These pages have published good examples.
One was a letter that appeared in September, a joint statement by the mayors of Moscow and Pullman, and the presidents of Washington State University and the University of Idaho. It was a remarkably positive piece of optimistic collaboration in troubling times, a breath of fresh air. Its outstanding feature was the unified sense of inclusion, purpose, and hope for our microcosmic Palouse.
Just last week, a columnist reflected on more fresh air, how nature allows Americans to experience their individuality, a powerful driver of the American psyche. He calls the outdoors a “democratic space” because it provides ways we can “meet face to face and restore trust and cultivate shared ideals.”
To support his point, he invokes words of Alexis de Tocqueville, a French diplomat who published “Democracy in America” after touring this country for nine months in the 1830s. In effect, Tocqueville says that common beliefs, ideals held in common, are likely to produce common action and a cohesive social body.
Tocqueville has been much quoted, and misquoted, since his work appeared nearly two centuries ago.
I’ll end with one suited to this theme. Here’s what he observed about the world’s newest democracy: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
The Palouse provides a good venue to begin repairing our faults. If we nurture our ability nationally, there’s a good likelihood we’ll remain one of the world’s oldest democracies.
We need to heal.
Pete Haug and his live-in editor and wife Jolie, share ideas like these over dinner. Contact him at email@example.com