Thursday, January 13, 2011

America: A Family Affair

We hope that you saw and heard the President's speech at the memorial service in Tucson last night.

Like most people, we each took our own meanings from the speech as a whole, and its separate parts. Together, though, we think there was a message that too many Americans seem to be missing, one that we've already hit on this week.

The President reminded us that we are all Americans, who all want many of the same things. Whether we are old or young, rich or poor, whatever our backgrounds, faith, or family history, we all want to find happiness, meaning, and peace in life. We are all part of that extended family that is America.

Like a family, there will be times we don't like each other, that we want to strike out at each other in anger. But - as the President noted last night, and as we said earlier in the week - we are better than that. We can be better, and we SHOULD be better.

"Being better" does not mean that we simply allow those who are wrong, or choose to do wrong, to get away with doing and saying what they should not. Hypocrites, the hubristic, the reckless, the greedy; all of these and more are people who choose to do wrong, and speak incorrectly, who choose to benefit themselves at the expense of others, in ways that are often cruel and needless... their behavior should not be ignored.

Like family, we are bound to one another as Americans - even those of us who make bad choices. Striking out at our family members in anger to attempt to get them to change their behavior is in itself, a poor choice. Hitting back is also unacceptable. As the President also said Wednesday night, "How we treat one another is entirely up to us."

So what do we do, when we fundamentally disagree about topics and challenges that are important to us as a nation? When we disagree, at our core, about the choices our fellow Americans are making - in how they speak, how they act, and how they choose to interact with us and others?

The President had the answer last night: "Only a more civil and honest discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation."

We believe - all of us - what the President has said many times and repeated last night: that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us. We unanimously agreed with him when he said, "I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us - we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations."

Americans have faced many unique challenges over the last few years that we have never faced before. We have a feeling the next decade or two - or three or four - will present us with even more challenges of a similarly difficult nature.

Now is not the time to attack and bury our countrymen in rhetoric and hate - or attempt to one-up each other with poorly chosen words. When we've done wrong, we need to suck it up, and admit it - and then stop that behavior. When we've been right, we need to move on and leave gloating and smugness behind.

As President Obama noted last night, in times like these, "We can not turn on each other."

No matter how looney we may seem to one another, the truth is we are all part of the one and only American family.

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