At times I despair that the perceptions and realities that divide and separate the people of our country are not easily definable and at times seem insurmountable. That the extreme positions and negative attitudes taken by both sides in the current political arena are not only at odds with each other but are in such a state of incongruity that compromise and rapprochement seem unlikely. When I find myself thinking in such a way it is often only our history and the inherent goodness of our various citizens that comforts me. Historically we have been divided before over issues even to the extent that we have engaged in bloody conflict more than once, conflict where we have with fury inflicted grievous injury not on a mutual enemy but on ourselves and yet we and our country are still here.
Over time we have slowly eroded many of the precipitous issues and perceptions that have divided us so that even now, even as many long-term conflicts are still visible and new ones are uplifted we must remember that what appeared to be forbidding chasms in the past have become over time difficult but climbable slopes rather than looming cliffs that they once were.
Many people heading into this election have chosen to perceive our varied positions as totally right or wrong, heavenly or hellish, destructive or constructive when almost all in truth lie somewhere in that gray area in between called compromise.
Too many have allowed themselves to believe that the coming election represents a cliff that approximately 1/2 of the population is either going to fall over or be pushed over after this election. We must realize that our country’s true enemy, just as it has been too many times in the past, is not a physical enemy but in truth as Walt Kelly’s alter ego Pogo tells us , “We have met the enemy and he is us.” strangely taken together with the words of U.S. Grant talking about Robert E. Lee when he said, ” “Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do…. try to think what are we going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.” I believe that we have all the rules that we need to produce a civil and meaningful political discourse.
Perhaps the words of a President who spent his whole political life on the edge of such a precipice, even to his death, might provide us with some guidance in our current situation. Lincoln ended his 2nd inaugural address with these words. That seem nearly as meaningful now as they did then, ” 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, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”