In the coming week, we will celebrate this country’s 236th birthday. It will be a week of hot dogs and street fairs, parades and fireworks, sparklers and ice cream. This year, that celebration follows a week of extremes that has tested the strengths and challenges of our country. And how have we fared?
From my personal point of view, I give us a C.
The Supreme Court issued a decision that addressed two of the many provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). As an attorney, I have an opinion as to the legal correctness or incorrectness of the decision, but that is not the subject of this blog. Rather, the decision sparked a tidal wave of screaming and wailing across the internet of how that decision and Obama in enacting ACA have ruined the country, that freedom no longer existed, and that anyone who thought otherwise was anti-American. That is paraphrasing the statements in a kind way.
When did we cease calling the President “President,” and instead refer to the man in his official capacity by his surname alone? I think it happened during President Bush’s reign, but the effect is clear – it is a disrespect not just for the person holding the office, but for the office itself, and thereby, our country. And since when could a President enact legislation? And since when is it appropriate and glorious to scream that the sky is falling without further investigation – or even reading the subject of the rant?
My point is this: regardless of the merits of ACA, you would have thought that this (and other issues lately on both sides of the political divide) was tantamount to setting off a nuclear warhead in the Heartland. Except, if something like that happened, we would behave better.
That happened this past week as well. Here in Ohio, we were hit by a sudden, powerful storm. Not a tornado that hits an isolated area, but a broad swath across the state where the sustained winds were clocked at 82 miles per hour. For comparison, that is the strength of a hurricane or moderate tornado. And in its wake, neighbors poured out of their homes helping to move debris from other people’s roads and drives. 600,000 customers are without power in Central Ohio alone, and most will not be restored until next weekend. As that news spread, so did the generosity. People with power opening their homes to those without. Clearing space in their fridges and freezers to store food that will otherwise go bad. Sharing their showers and their air conditioning. On one street in my area, power cords stripe the road running from those powered to those who are not. Neighbors acting like neighbors … and friends.
So when we needed each other in a physical sense, we came through – that is what salvages the grade from failing to a C. Perhaps as neighbors spend more time together than they are used to, conversations will occur. REAL conversations not filled with shallow rhetoric and blame, but instead discussions of why people hold the views they do. If that were to happen, perhaps we all would learn something new. It may not change our views, but perhaps it will temper us to treat each other and positions with which we disagree with more respect. And that – the free and open sharing of IDEAS – combined with respect and kindness toward each other, are the strengths of this country. The United States was a grand experiment in that regard, and one that I hope has not outlived its time.
Happy Independence Day, everyone. Honor those who sacrificed much so that the experiment can continue.
The United States of America began in the fires of war. That is why we will detonate hoards of small explosives when we celebrate this week. If all we’d have done was talk to the British and share ideas we’d still be using the King’s English.
I did not say there aren’t fights worth fighting. But we cannot determine if such disagreements actually exist if all we spout is inflammatory rhetoric. We will easily be misguided and at war with ourselves if we fight whenever rhetoric permits. Intelligent discussion is not a weakness; it is a strength.