Bridging the gulf that divides; it’s up to each of us

In the days surrounding Independence Day, there was an Olympic hopeful upset about being blindsided with the National Anthem while on an award pedestal.

She hid herself with an “Activist Athlete” shirt while the first- and second-place finishers stood at attention.

We were lectured by an elected Missouri Black congresswoman that “Blacks are not free.”

We were informed in a Black Lives Matter Utah chapter tweet that the American flag is a hate symbol.

And we got a video of a young boy angrily pulling a flag from the ground and throwing it down in disgust.

This all made my heart hurt – while reflecting on my grandfather.

He immigrated from Naples, Italy, made a living as a tailor, raised 10 children who then raised a ton of grandchildren like me. He is the reason I am here. And I am sure there are millions of duplicates to my story.

I grew up pressing clothes next to him. He did not leave his shop often, but he made an exception for naturalization ceremonies.

He would go to the federal courtroom and pass out small American flags to the new fellow American citizens.

He knew where he came from, what he had and the difference. And he was intensely proud of it.

What a quaint realization he had, that this is an exceptional country. And how sad that he would be considered out-of-touch by the discontented class today.

There is so much misunderstood in the gulf between what my grandfather knew and experienced and what the aggressive malcontents of today insist is the revised truth.

We were taught about America’s sin of slavery in Curtin Middle School, the horrors of the Civil War, the dying that came with ending the atrocity.

In high school, we had a course called Problems of Democracy, a literal acknowledgement of the nation’s imperfections.

We were correctly told outside the classroom by Martin Luther King Jr. to dream of the day when everyone would be judged by “the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.”

And now, more than 50 years later, we are being told to believe and educate that the color of our skin at birth predetermines our sins or victimhood. That’s an expecially hard truth to digest for millions of children born of inter-racial marriages.

No matter birth circumstances, no one is born with hatred in their heart. We learn to hate. Who is doing the teaching?

Let it be none of us.

Instead, let us seek out those of different backgrounds, race, economic standing and cultural backgrounds. What I have found in those circumstances is the rapid realization that we have more similarities than differences.

The second bridge to that dangerous gulf being forged through social media and a coalition of divide-and-conquer practitioners is the ability to think with balance on issues.

For instance, why not take the suggestion of former Democratic Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford Jr. and finish building a wall at our southern border to stop the death, human trafficking, citizen danger and illegal drug trade that is happening daily?

And then work to make legal immigration a quicker and easier process.

And consider, for a moment, why millions seek legal naturalization and millions others risk their lives in an illegal process if this is such a horrible country separated by race.

It’s great that athletes use their podium to do good things in a community but playing fields should be apolitical, where the ultimate expression of teamwork across all backgrounds is celebrated. And certainly, when representing a country, spare us desecration of its symbols of freedom.

You can’t burn flags, topple statues and denigrate the country’s history and institutions without explaining what the better model looks like. Insist kids be taught America’s full history, warts and all, but don’t push an agenda that we are divided and doomed by race from birth when trends of the past 150 years show otherwise.

What would Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy and Dr. King think of this version of the country? My guess is they would find the divisions serious but overblown by political purpose and solvable with a renewed sense of united purpose. They would be sad we have lost the ability to think with balance.

And they would probably ask us to examine the history of China, Russia, North Korea, Venezuela and much of the Mideast for comparison’s sake.

Instead of wallowing in embarrassment over our imperfect, evolving country, talk with a police officer, a veteran, a legal immigrant or someone from a background different from yours.

What you will find is what none other than former President Bill Clinton exclaimed in one of his most vital speeches:

“There is nothing that is wrong with America that can’t be changed by what is right with America.”

David F. Troisi retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of the Sun-Gazette.


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