When the nation pauses for a few days to celebrate the 241st anniversary of our independence, it goes without saying all the fireworks these days aren’t in the sky.
The “whish-bang-boom” of divisive politics echoes from the hall of government in Washington down to the vinyl booths at the neighborhood breakfast cafe.
Some degree of dissension and discord has been part of our national scene since the Founding Fathers hammered out the Declaration and the Constitution, sometimes with their own angry invective close to today’s. Yet they didn’t have social media to spread their venom far and wide, and thank God for that. We’d hate to imagine the nation’s nascent days derailed by an errant Ben Franklin tweet.
There are times it seems this is a nation in name only, bound by common laws, symbols and history but split down the middle on culture and beliefs based on identities, regional differences and other factors. North vs. South. East vs. West. Big city vs. small town. Baby boomers vs. millennials. African-American, Latino, Asian, Caucasian and everything in-between. Male, female and everything in-between. Conservative, progressive, libertarian, socialist, gun lover, tree hugger and everything in-between.
And our “one nation under God” is actually one that worships a Creator under many names, be it God, Allah, Jehovah, Vishnu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
So how do we somehow put all this aside to enjoy a hot dog, a parade and a chorus of “Stars and Stripes Forever” and just be Americans for awhile?
Perhaps it starts by putting politics back into a right-sized box where it belongs. The constant blather from broadcast media and the internet has blown every political issue into an endless shoutfest. Does anyone remember when the 24-hour cable news channels actually reported news that didn’t originate in Washington? Now they trot out one multi-pundit panel after another to analyze every issue, comment, bill and Trump missive to death under an electron microscope. It gets tiresome.
Government is a necessary function of a civil society; some like it big, others prefer it smaller, the crux of a longtime exchange of ideas. But either way, it isn’t the end-all, be-all of existence. There is much more that transcends politics and defines us in different terms. We just need to stop yelling at each other long enough to recognize it.
Take a typical American community like Gainesville and Hall County. Look around and you’ll see people of all backgrounds, ages and walks of life working, worshipping and living in harmony regardless of their partisan choices.
The America found here is local churches of all faiths led by pastors who perform weddings and funerals, offer comfort and pray with their flocks. It’s full of nonprofit organizations that work to help those in need plug the gaps government can’t fill. It’s populated by volunteers who build houses, gather food and clothes for the needy, walk homeless pets, read to students and bring meals and companionship to seniors.
When someone is in need, many rally to help. The stories we write about children facing health issues or families losing homes in a fire draw huge support from those who don’t pick and choose who to help based on political divisions. Those are less important in a real community.
Politics is a part of local life, but it plays out differently. Most of those who serve on county or city boards and councils aren’t in it for glory or gain, just honest public servants seeking to make a difference. They don’t earn millions through speaker fees, angle for big-time lobbying or TV jobs or take pricey junkets overseas on the public’s dime. And last we checked, none of them had tweeted out any insults worth worrying about.
This slice of Americana still has its differences, but unlike those cable TV Stooges bashing each other on the head with hammers, we usually agree to disagree and maintain some degree of common courtesy.
That’s how the United States has overcome its challenges over two-plus centuries. The nation has survived a civil war, world wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and disco. It has endured its share of presidents and other leaders of all parties who turned out to be hacks, drunks, reprobates, crooks, liars, philanderers and dolts.
Through it all, this country is still here and, despite notions to the contrary, remains strong, prosperous and free.
This holiday, as the burgers sizzle, the rockets fill the sky and the brass bands boom out Sousa tunes, let’s set aside our R’s and D’s and other labels for a little while and just be U, S and A. There is still so much to celebrate about being American.
Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a a letter to the editor; you can use this form or email to email@example.com. The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.