Archive for November, 2018

America, We’ve Got to Come Together.

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Who wouldn’t love to be able to change something with just one action, say, snap your fingers and the red light turns green, or blink your eyes and the sun is shining, or make a wish and you’re on your way to Hawaii?

Me? I’d been hoping that writing just one column could bring our country back. You know, the country where we didn’t threaten one another, or call the other guy an idiot, or where the president didn’t make fun of people. Just one thing, I keep thinking, and it’ll all turn around.

What the heck’s going on? It seems we’re at each other’s throats with rage. What are we doing to each other?

For some time I had talked myself into believing the atmosphere of hatred and disrespect we hear so much about in D.C, only existed in this specific vicinity. It swirls around television channels, is trumpeted on bumper stickers and yard signs, emanates from the mouths of some in Congress and stains posters that are marked-over.  

Behavior stemming from the president’s brash remarks and his call to end political correctness can’t be as bad elsewhere as it seems here, surely.

But on our trips back home to Illinois I began to ask cab drivers and wheelchair assistants, usually immigrants, I’d encounter in the airports if they were experiencing disrespect, and the unfortunate answer was, “Yes.” And as my wife and I talked to teachers about incidents at school, and to family back in Illinois, I began to see it is all too real.

The national eruption of hate and mutual distrust is not just sad, it’s tearing the fabric of our society apart. Why are we doing this to one another?

Part of it stems from Russia’s evil manipulation, taking our national original sin - slavery and the vicious racism that has stemmed from it - and gouging that disabling wound to Russia’s advantage. Using Facebook and Twitter, Russia manufactured racist ‘stories,’ ‘events’ and ‘users’ out of thin air, convinced us they were real, then weaponized them to ricochet across this “social media,” churning our emotions to a boiling point. Our division at this moment in history, sad to say, is concrete evidence that Russia’s gambit has worked.

But the guy who’s the other half of this problem lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., and he’s not into the respect we were taught as kids.

Usually, the leader of our country is sort of like our national uncle, the guy who shows you how it’s done, our representative to the world, our guide in times of trial. But we’ve never had a national uncle who says it’s ok to be unkind, to say bad things about other people, to call people names, to make fun of them, to lie.

Imagine your grandson is out playing ball and somebody yells at him, “Hey four eyes, where’d you get that stupid face?” Or your Mom is taunted, “Get out of my way, grandma!” It would make you (and me) furious.

We know things like that are happening, and mostly it’s race and nationality that are the points of each personal attack.  Non-white workers and technicians tell me, yes, they’ve experienced hateful words. 

Here they are in the country that’s been the pinnacle of freedom for the world, the place they, and your own great grandparents, grandparents or parents fought hard to win passage to; and many fought hard to defend. And someone out of nowhere, insults them with hateful words, just because of who they are. Because the haters feel they can.

At school, kids are being bullied, because of their strange-sounding last names or the color or their skin.  Shoved, because the shover knows he can; after all, we have a national leader who gave him/her the example that told them, it’s ok to be unkind, disrespectful, even brutal. 

It’s become so bad that the American Association of School Administrators, which represents local school superintendents, devoted an entire issue of their magazine to focus on how school leaders can handle the lack of civility they have to contend with in their school districts.

It broke my heart to learn that, all over this vast, wonderful country, kids are being unkind to one another at what’s supposed to be a sanctuary of safety, their school, and that parents are being picked on.

Not long after our president’s “shit hole countries” remark, I was being pushed in a wheelchair to our airport departure gate in Virginia. I asked where my assistant - remember they often depend on tips - where she was from, and she told me she came from Ghana, in Africa.

I said, “I want to apologize to you for what our president said.” Tears began to fill her eyes. “Thank you,” she said.

That’s the thing about all this. People are being hurt.

I write to Speaker Paul Ryan, because he’s third in line to the presidency, and I tell him he needs to say something. Kids and families are being hurt, I tell him, “because of the words of this president, and you, sir, say nothing?”

Every day someone is harmed. This is not normal.

Hatred is wrong. Ridicule is wrong. Lying is wrong.

Killing, is wrong.

The thing is, we’re not going to survive as the “leader of the free world,” if we attack one another. Our neighborhoods and towns, schools and cities will rupture.

We have to look at ourselves in the mirror, and ask that question. Do I want to see hatred, like my expression, stare back at me? Or do you want, long for, a smile. Let’s try to get back to the Golden Rule we were taught as children - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Come on, America, let’s start being one people again, use the Golden Rule. Because the United States is us, just as it reads on our coins - E Pluribus Unum - One, out of many. We, together, from all the nations on this Earth, make this country great.

Respect, and we can be a guiding light. Hate, and our Statue of Liberty’s light will begin to quiver and slowly fade away; her purpose, extinguished.


—To see what our own national hatred of “others” has spiraled into in earlier decades, look up:

  • Lynching, 1877-1950,
  • the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act,
  • 1908 white mob riot in Lincoln’s hometown,
  • Tulsa’s white mob 1921 annihilation of its Black Wall Street,
  • and the
    arrests of Italian-Americans,

    German-Americans, and

    Japanese-American internment, during WWII,

    Most horrifically, The Holocaust, the 1930s Nazi-inspired, anti-Jewish hatred in Europe allowed the murder of millions of human beings.