Those are the words of Franklin Roosevelt in his 1941 message to Congress. President Roosevelt was reflecting on the lessons of history from World War I as well as anticipating the position of our nation in the early days of a growing world aggression that would become World War II.
I recently read the above quote and immediately thought of the many national and international issues tearing at the emotions of our citizens. Ethnicity, cultural background, race, faith, sexual orientation, immigration, etc. Has there ever been a time when we have faced more hostile divides within our nation’s people?
In order to get proper context for President Roosevelt’s comment, I read his entire State of the Union message. That reading confirmed my initial instinct. He was using the lessons of history and the application of critical thinking to rationally analyze the challenges facing America.
Having just completed a very divisive presidential election process, we now deal with emotion- driven rather than fact-driven passions. This is exacerbated by deceptions and politically motivated posturing on the part of politicians and the press. Just over a month into a new administration, one side calls our new president unfit and hateful. The other side insists that any faults attributed to our new president are dwarfed by the abuses and malfeasance of his election opponent and his predecessor in office. Meanwhile, President Trump goes about the business of restoring law and order, bringing management and labor together, restoring respect for our law enforcement and military personnel, and generally putting to shame the laziness and self-serving behavior of the “swamp” he was elected to drain.
Never have I witnessed such baseless hatred on so many levels. “Fake News” joins the ranks of outright lies and deception from many elected representatives in Washington, D.C. Stirring the pot of emotional and physical aggression within our borders; one citizen against the other, one race against the other, one … (fill in the blank) against the other. Advice? Everybody take a chill pill! Let’s all heed President Roosevelt: Study and learn from history. Separate fact from fiction. Think critically. Employ logic. Don’t confuse notoriety with intelligence, and don’t confuse intelligence with wisdom or discernment. Engage rather than stifle dialogue so honest debate can occur with regard opposing viewpoints.
Will this result in immediate solutions to all problems? No. Will this result in agreement on all foundational principles? No. Will this eliminate the biases, hatreds, and divisions within this thing we call human society? No. So why bother?
The United States of America, unlike any other country in the world, came into existence based on a set of foundational principles and ideals, based on Judeo/Christian values. Over time, a unique “culture” resulted. That culture is the glue that holds us together. Legal immigration of peoples from around the world, coming here to assimilate, contribute, and celebrate our values is the fabric of our success.
As with all nations, the U.S. has its’ warts and regrets. But, unlike most nations, our love of freedom, fairness and equality for all have motivated a collective will to “right” the “wrongs” of the past and present.
I realize the part about Judeo/Christian values will make the hairs stand up on the necks of many. However, one of the realities of life is that we cannot change facts simply because we have a worldview that is opposed to those facts. Even a cursory review of our founding documents and the writings of our Founders will provide a clarity that can be rejected, but not denied! Unfortunately, such facts are largely ignored and/or “revised” if a U.S. History course is even required in our public-school system today.
So where do we go from here? The answer is in the hands of every citizen of the United States. The example we set in the home. The example we set in our places of worship. The example we set in the schools. The example we set in our neighborhoods. And, unfortunately, the example we allow to be set in the “swamp” of Washington D.C.
We are rapidly losing our country to lies, lawlessness, deception, selfishness, hatred, lack of self-discipline/accountability, and lack of compassion. Common sense is becoming much less common.
I often thank God that I was born in the United States of America. I understand why so many around the world wish to come here and make a new life. My heart is on the side of those who have found their way here. I also know there are those who would take advantage of our freedoms and welcoming attitude to do us great harm.
No matter the point of contention, might we remind ourselves that we can be soft-hearted as we deal with the challenges we face. But…..we cannot afford to be soft-headed in the process. There will be points of disagreement on issues that affect one another’s lives, but there must remain civility, law and order, and some objective basis for resolving differences. What is your objective basis?
William Colby is a resident of Fort Wayne.