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Column: ‘Why can’t we all get along?’
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

In 1992, a year after he was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers, Rodney King asked the question, “Why can’t we all get along?”

A lot of people laughed at his remarks, but it is one of those questions to which we may never get a clear answer.

I have a lot of friends who don’t share my political views, and I make a mental note not to go there.

There was a time when I rather enjoyed a spirited conversation about politics and related subjects, but now, it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.

Our state has voted a number of different ways in my lifetime. In 1960, we voted for John F. Kennedy. In 1964, we voted for Sen. Barry Goldwater. In 1968, we cast our ballots for Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama.

In 1966, Howard “Bo” Callaway was the top vote-getter in the race for governor. He did not get a majority of greater than 50%. The contest was sent to the General Assembly, which voted to elect Lester Maddox, the Democratic nominee.

We’ve had some interesting races along the way, some of them were more contentious than others, but nothing compares to this year.

Johnny Isakson was a Republican when a meeting of Republicans could be held in a phone booth. He learned the art of negotiating with the opposing party and did a lot of good for his state and district.

When Zell Miller was governor, we elected a Republican school superintendent. The appointed state school board and the elected school superintendent were not getting along. Zell decided to appoint some level-headed Republicans and accomplished a lot of good for the state.”

But I come back to the question, “Why can’t we all get along?”

Our state is changing demographically. Gwinnett County, once a standard-bearer for the GOP, has returned to the Democratic Party. It is a majority-minority county. Not a single minority, but a collection of minorities now make up over half the population.

Change has come to other suburban counties, including Cobb, Rockdale and Douglas.

I guess the thing that has brought this to mind is the barrage of TV, bulk mail and internet ads for candidates on both sides. It’s just nasty. I keep moving up the channels to a point where politicians don’t advertise, and I’m relieved when I watch a show without having to view a series of spots where they call each other crooks and liars.

One of my first jobs was shining shoes in a barbershop. I remember when the men would talk politics on Saturday mornings. I remember the biggest criticism of one candidate was that he was a Methodist. 

They groused that another fellow served in the U.S. Coast Guard. “He’s one of those knee-deep sailors,” I remember one man saying. That pales in comparison to what they say now.

In 1938, Sen. Richard B. Russell broke off his engagement to a young woman attorney. Not because she was a woman, but because she was a Roman Catholic. I could tell you the religious beliefs of a couple of our congressional representatives, but that’s all.

We would throw a lawmaker out based on their religious beliefs. Today, God knows a few of them need our prayers.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the weekend Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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