In my three score-plus years the mood of the country has undulated gently at times and violently at others. Yet, I do not recall such a pervasive polarizing anxiety of the current magnitude. It appears that there are only rough seas ahead.
The level of distress appears to increase weekly, there seems to be no upper limit to boorish, callous or mean-spirited remarks and behavior. The casting of the first stones of criticism are not restrained by any self-examination or reflection of one’s own guilt.
Following every election, we are left with trite and clever slogans rendered pointless when it comes to governing. An underlying question that is initially whispered but eventually increases in volume asks, “So now what?”
In the past, we have averted this conundrum by focusing on a common enemy. When we are attacked the divisiveness recedes as our attention is drawn to common cause. Although we remain at war, the connection between those doing the protecting seems distant and obscure from those being protected. We are proud of our uniformed service members, but we are not asked to wash the blood from their uniforms. We honor their sacrifice but are not unified enough by their mission to forgo our stark differences.
To whom then do we turn? Thirty-plus years in politics, fourteen in the legislature, has revealed that it is pointless to scream at one another no matter how convicted one may be about the right way to proceed.
We have come to believe that liberalism and conservatism are diametrically opposed belief systems. I prefer to see them as divergent paths that lead to common goals. We need, as Robert Kennedy noted, “a conservatism in its wish to preserve the enduring values of American society to recognize the urgent need to bring opportunity to all citizens, that is willing to take action to meet the needs of people. … We need a liberalism and its wish to do good; that knows the answers to all problems is not simply spending money.”
“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal,” noted Robert’s brother, John F. Kennedy.
One way or another we must get to common ground. Getting there requires patience, the assumption of good intent regardless of conflicting evidence and acceptance of the simple fact that despite the mind-numbing campaign rhetoric that we are more alike than we are different.
I would like to suggest that the foundation of our common ground is this. It is the future of our children that we cherish and will in common defend and unite around.
Millions of people will be following us in our beloved Arizona, we all want our children and their children and so on to have lives of purpose and prosperity. It is often said that it takes a village to raise the child, I believe more potently that it is the child who raises the village. The children call us to our better selves.
We will rally to our children and other’s children when called. As we rally, let’s accept that unity does not necessarily mean uniformity, that while we can agree on the ends, the best possible lives for our children, we can disagree on the means and can work on many paths simultaneously to the same goal.
Let’s seek the common ground of what is in the best interest of the children we cherish. Rough seas or not, let’s sail on together.