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January 19 2017

A few things I’ve noticed around the Internet this week:

First, if the poster had his facts right, the end of President Obama’s term tomorrow will mark only the second time in American history that we’ve had 3 successive two-term presidents. Clinton, Bush, Obama all served their full 8 years. The closest we’ve come to violence in the power transition has been here at the transition from President Obama to (will-be) President Trump.

But even that pales in comparison to the violence some nations see in any transition. And it sure beats civil wars and military coups every time something goes wrong.

Second, by this time tomorrow someone else will be responsible for executing the laws passed by the Congress. For the past few decades, we’ve kind of stunk at making sure the President did that and the Congress did their job. The back half of President Bush’s terms, much of President Obama’s terms, we’ve mainly let Congress skate and then fussed because the President either did too much of what we didn’t want or not enough of what we did. Without considering whether it was the President’s job to do it in the first place—much of was done outside what should have been the scope of the Executive Branch—but our Legislative Branch has been allowed to be dysfunctional for too long.

Third, it’s time for the great shift in American thought again. From 2002-2009, it was patriotic for the media and movie stars to question the government (in their eyes), while “mainstream America” (whatever the definition of that is) felt it wrong to do so. Then, from 2009-2017, it’s been reversed. Now it’s time to go back.

Or, maybe every last one of us who are supposed to be guaranteed, by the US Government under the law and through strength in the right ways, the free exercise of the inalienable right endowed by our Creator to stand up, use our brains, and engage in the process. That process starts by knowing your neighbor and realizing that every last one of us are in the same boat. True, I have a wildly different belief about God and right and wrong than many other people do. Guess what? I’ve worked with people whose belief systems were radically different. We argued but we worked.

It is entirely possible to live, work, and even be friends with people you have rank disagreements with. Start by having the assumption that the person next door needs food, water, oxygen, and to be treated like a human being. See where that gets you for starters. And then, we start using our brains again.

Start seeing through the rhetoric that perpetuates the cycle: this extreme view is held and propagated as the only alternative to that extreme view, and no middle ground is left. After all, the only reason someone holds the other view is they “hate” your view (and, by extension, you personally). And to defend you from the “haters,” your only option is to join the extreme on your side.

This gets exploited to the benefit of a few who profit, in money and power. Crack a history book and read it plainly. Hitler persuaded millions of that the Jews hated them, and got those millions to hate back. Stalin, Lenin, Robespierre. What empowered apartheid? Fear and hate.

Learn your neighbors. Love your neighbors. Some of them are like me: right-wing nuts who own guns, read the Bible, and actually believe it. Guess what? I don’t hate you as much as you think I do. And you probably don’t hate me as much as Todd Starnes wants me to think you do.

But as long as you and I never speak…well, we’ll never know, will we?

As long as we’re only people who wave at our neighbors (with a full hand or just a part of one) as we drive off to daily chaos, we’ll have voices from the TV or the Internet or some other distant source telling us who our neighbors are and helping us judge them.

The result?

The madness and anger you see going into tomorrow. And the relief without regard for the consequences of it. Guess what? Come noon, January 20, 2017, the Presidency of the United States switches to Donald J. Trump. Can the Republic survive him?

I guarantee you this: the Republic cannot survive the fractures in our streets between each of us. We have a system that should limit his power—should limit any government official’s power—but the power of that system is the people who are neighbors to one another.

People who are informed, thinking, and connected with the community around them.

Want to protest the installation of hate and tyranny tomorrow? Want to celebrate the end of eight years of hate and tyranny tomorrow?

Meet your neighbors. Share a meal with them. Make time for your family.

The strength of this nation is not its government. No nation lasts whose strength is in the politics.

The strength of this nation was, at one time, in its people. People like Alexander Hamilton or Elizabeth Adams, Abraham Lincoln or Harriet Beecher Stowe or Frederick Douglass or Sojourner Truth or Audie Murphy or Susan B. Anthony or Daisy Bates or….(the list starts to look like I’m just googling after that.)

You get the idea.

We the People. Let’s quit sitting on our hands and reach out to one another. We’ve almost waited too long. Let’s not wait any longer.

 

Or, if you’d rather, let’s be junior high kids and play “turn about’s fair play” for the next four years, and four years after that, and take pictures of the nation around us because it’ll help the archaeologists know what the ruins used to look like. Remember to print them out and seal them in plastic for posterity’s sake.

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