In 1865, Abraham Lincoln said, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.”
In 1906, Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote in a biography of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
In 1964, in his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
On Aug. 1, instead of appreciating that we live in a nation of free speech and free enterprise, Americans rallied either in support or opposition of Chick-fil-A and gay rights and Christian values. And everything else people made that debacle about.
Wednesday, I woke to find posts and articles on websites saying terrible things about each other and our country. Instead of living in the land of the brave, people hid behind keyboards to speak their minds – and not very cleverly, might I add.
Thursday, I was in a drive-through behind a car with a giant window sticker that said, “Does this a** make my car look big?” next to a giant picture of the president’s face.
He may not be “your” president, but he is the president and the first thing I learned about politics is that that title should garner at least a speck of respect. And I don’t care if you like him or not and you don’t need to know if I like him or not. That’s irrelevant.
I get it. Americans don’t like people who disagree with them, but we all have those unalienable rights we reference any time we feel like we’re the victims of an injustice. And there’s no way to get people to agree with you if you refuse to be civil. Blaring hate about race, religion, sexuality, income, hair color, shoe size or any other senseless crap you come up with isn’t going to fix the economy, support small businesses or put kids through college. I don’t care if you’re from a red state or a blue state or a neon green one. It just makes you look ignorant.
And it’s not just one side. Our bickering and insults are the only things that seem to be bi-partisan and all-inclusive.
To fix our country, we should stop arguing about chicken and find some humble pie. Bigotry won’t make anyone agree with your religious beliefs. And being rude and disrespectful to someone in response to a statement about their faith only furthers the belief that people who aren’t religious are heathens.
No president can be defined simply as a hero or villain. His policies shape our nation, but we, as a whole, put him in office. That being the case, if you think the system is broken, doing research and voting based on facts is the only way to fix it.
One person isn’t the problem with our country. America is not defined by the individual sitting in the Oval Office; it’s defined by the men and women in its stores, classrooms, fields and factories. Policies, programs and politicians can help or hurt our country, but if we can’t accept each other for who we are, overlook the letters at the ends of our names and the colors of our states on a map, the churches we do or don’t attend, it’s no wonder we’re stuck in a rut.
Maybe I am naive, or full of some crazy youthful optimism, but I still believe that when we put aside our differences, open our eyes, do our homework, and grow up, only then will we be back to the America free of malice and full of charity, who sacrifices her soldiers for free speech, a palace of justice that supports freedom.
Susan Turner is a presentation editor at The Kentucky Standard.