Take a deep breath at 9 a.m. today.
Reflect on the fact the republic is still standing.
And then make a mental note that we have a new president.
Joe Biden is not your president. He is not my president. He is our president.
You may not like his politics. You make like his politics.
It doesn’t matter. He is still the president.
Whatever thoughts are going through your mind today at high noon Washington, D.C. time, remember what brings us together and not what divides us.
All of us need to back off from the ledge. The enemy is not someone who voted differently. It is not someone who thinks different. It is not someone who has different values. The enemy — to borrow from the line comic strip creator Walt Kelly gave Pogo — is us.
Pogo uttered the words “we have met the enemy and he is us” in an Earth Day comic strip in 1970 as he looked over the swamp where he and his fellow comic strip creatures lived. The swamp was a cesspool with litter strung about.
It is really no different than we find ourselves today. We are all our own enemy.
We say we want inclusion but then we act otherwise.
We lament how people can’t get along while vilifying those that algorithms don’t include on our friends list.
We claim to stand for free speech but then we work overtime to stifle speech we don’t like.
We support the system only when it is run by someone we support.
We want law and justice but then we pull the Animal Farm act.
We contend we have an open mind but too often we have a closed heart.
We celebrate tolerance only when people conform to what we want them to be.
And when things don’t go our way, we slam this nation for being the worst place on the planet.
That somehow doesn’t square with hundreds of thousands who continue to risk life and limb to come here illegally.
You might say the world has only been out of kilter for the past four years. Take the blinders off. It may have reached a sickening crescendo but we’ve been heading for this moment in history for decades.
That is what happens when you trivialize change because it is either happening too slow for your tastes or the fact it is happening at all.
We are fortunate to live in a country where we are not subservient to a crown or a ruling class of dictators.
This doesn’t mean we each rule the roost. And at the very least we’ve got to stop acting like we do.
There are 326 million of us. You can’t have a civilized society if you opt to make you own rules and assume your “rights” are superior to all others.
This doesn’t mean we sit silently while things happen that go against our personal grain, whatever that might be. But it does mean that you need to understand that this country’s very name emphasizes unity among 50 distinct sub-governments. And just like our states ultimately act like one when everything is all said and done, so must we as individuals when decisions are reached.
That doesn’t mean you roll over and not try to change things after a decision is made. But what it does mean is you have to accept that decision as the law until the course of time and political events changes it.
If not we will sink into chaos even if the 326 million of us fit neatly into two tribes.
In reality we are all still 326 million individuals even as a nation of one. That’s because the America experiment was born on the premise that all humans are created equally when it comes to inalienable rights but we are much like snowflakes in that no two are alike.
If you doubt that go through whatever Top 100 positions on political subjects you view as the Holy Grail and see how many people in your social media circle or whatever interaction you use to re-enforce your self-worth and measure others by are an exact carbon copy.
Then go down other lists that are specific and not general ranging from likes in food, music, clothes, movies, religion, party affiliation, and such. Now marry those views and likes to skin tone, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, eye color, and age.
No one is going to match you all the way down the line. Yet we immediately start dismissing people when they don’t fit into whatever square or circle we think they should be jammed into because they don’t think like us.
And if you look closely you may surprise yourself that people you view as enemies, idiots, evil, or whatever dismissive term you toss about share common ground and interests with you.
If you really fear for America’s future — and that applies to people on either side of today’s divide — you need to stop letting algorithms think and speak for you.
This doesn’t mean shying away from debate and not questioning authority and things in general. But it does mean actively engaging others that aren’t part of the shadow you cast whether it is face to face or on social media. And that doesn’t mean acting like a school yard bully or two second graders in a playground screaming match.
Seek those with different views out not to blacklist or shame them. Do it to actually listen to their views and read what they read. Listen to their views. Don’t react as if you’re tweeting like an influencer out for clicks. Instead react as if you want to understand them so you can work toward change. Keep in mind this also involves you changing to a degree as well. Even if that is to simply have a better understanding of others that Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and such wouldn’t bring you together through algorithms.
But in order for this to work we need to practice the lost art of humility when conversing in the public square. The exchanges can be spirited but they should not be so heated that they become raging wildfires.
Just like raging wildfires, out of control public discourse can scorch the land, send deadly embers miles away to ignite other infernos, suck the oxygen out of the common air we breathe, and blacken the soul of the nation.
Joe Biden is our nation’s 46th president.
And just like his 45 predecessors, he is not the one that determines happiness and sets the tone for the nation. That task falls to each and every one of us.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org