A friend sent me a list of outrageously comical “Thoughts to get you through almost any crisis.” However, one sober thought on the list struck me: “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a tough battle.” This reminded me of a discussion I had with a former colleague — a colleague, but an ideological opponent. We disagreed about almost everything, except enjoying one another’s company and caring about our country. During the 1972 presidential election, he headed the Greene County, Pa. Campaign for Nixon. I headed the Greene County campaign for McGovern. Our store-front offices were next to one another, and we stood outside joking everyday till the election.

His man won — the first time the county had ever voted Republican — yet it did not alter our friendship. We played on the same faculty basketball team in an intramural league. We played one-on-one many days, where there was considerably more hacking than scoring. We were good friends without seeing eye-to-eye.

He was fiercely conservative, and he told me why. He hated change. He believed that when you change things you kill them. I argued that things die when they do not change.

We were having a beer in his house one day after one of our basketball bloodbaths when he said: “Come here.” He took me down the hall to a child’s bedroom. It was clean and orderly. “This is Jill’s room,” he said. “Jill?” I asked. I didn’t know he had a daughter named Jill.

He told me she had died years ago, at the age of six. They hadn’t changed a thing in the room from that tragic day. He and his wife memorialized the loss of their child by freezing her room in time. It took my breath away.

I still thought that things often die if they don’t change. But I understood his view. Now I think we were both right.

Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a tough battle.

Who among us, at various points in our lives, has not experienced some knee-buckling, devastating loss — death of a family member or a close friend, betrayal of trust, painful injury or disease, divorce or financial stress? It can be debilitating. For some it is an opportunity for growth; for others it leaves the spirit to wither and die.

Something akin is happening today. Things in America are changing. Fear and trepidation afflict people of all beliefs. Some people fear an America that is becoming less white and less Christian. Others fear an America losing its constitutional character to autocracy. Fear begets hatred; hatred begets violence; violence begets more fear. And the cycle intensifies and begins to spin faster and out of control.

It may be too late to break this cycle. It is certainly getting more difficult to see an opening. One partisan at a political rally in Idaho recently shouted to the speaker, “When do we get to use the guns?” He wondered how long we have to wait “before we can kill these people.” Local, state, and national politicians across the country are being threatened with beatings and death. Many are quitting public office for fear of their lives and their families’ lives. Who is going to take their place? The gunslingers? If so, then what?

Unless a substantial number of hitherto cowardly Republican legislators can muster the courage to sanction or expel their radical right-wing colleagues who spew hateful rhetoric and condone violence, democracy will teeter in the balance. Conditions are not good. Communication and trust between the Democrats and Republicans are virtually non-existent. This makes compromise impossible, especially since Republicans consider compromise weakness. Politics, for them, has become a zero-sum game fueled with lies, big and small.

Worse yet, they openly and tacitly countenance threatening and hateful language from their base, hoping to frighten sober officeholders — Republican as well as Democrat — and replace them with more demagogues from the gun-toting fringe. If they succeed — and they may — America will become a government by threat and menace.

Significantly, Donald Trump is positioning himself and the Republican Party to subvert the 2024 election (see Barton Gellman’s article in the December issue of Atlantic Monthly.) Republican governors and local officeholders in “red” states all over the country are passing legislation to subvert democracy democratically.

So, yes, everyone we meet is facing a battle, but the most prominent political battle we face today, in the words of Jon Meachum’s book, is for “the soul of America.” But it may also be for “the body of America.” And since it is rare these days for people with different opinions to disagree agreeably, kindness will be on the sidelines during this battle.

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(5) comments

Kent Misegades

I was wondering how long it would take for the very predictable Mr. Shaw to bore us with another diatribe against the real President Donald Trump and his 80 million supporters. It didn’t take long for this poor TDS sufferer. And accusing Conservatives of hateful rhetoric and violence is the typical Democrat tactic of the pot calling the kettle black. It was Biden voters looting and burning Democrat-run cities last summer, not Trump voters.

Jim Tomashoff

Kent lies, yet again. In many cases local police identified the initiators of violence as known conservative agitators, i.e. Trump supporters, hoping that BLM protestors would be blamed. He lies when he says Trump is the real President. He lies when he says Trump go 80 million votes. Essentially Kent lies whenever his fingers touch the keys on his computer.

Thomas Mattocks

You know Mr Tomashoff, those who are ignorant of the truth should not accuse others of spreading falsehoods. If you subtract the violent crimes committed by Democrats from the National crime stats, our nation would have the same crime rate as Sweden.

Jim Tomashoff

Utterly ridiculous assertion Mr. Mattocks. What's your proof? Let me guess. You're going to go look for crime statistics that control for race and ethnicity, and you'll simply assume that all non-whites are Democrats. Right? Do the same for murder by guns and suicide by guns. You'll find that whites disproportionally commit these crimes and actions. And since, in order to be consistent with your implicit (explicit?) racism, you'll have to conclude that most murders and suicides are carried out by Republicans.

Thomas Mattocks

Your assertions are simply false Mr. Tomashoff. Almost 300 Black children have been shot in the city of Chicago this year. Not by Trump supporters or police, but by Blacks, over 90% of whom support the Democrat Party. Almost as many children have been shot in New York City. In each of the last three years, more Blacks have been murdered in the United States by other Blacks [Democrats] than the number of Black Soldiers we lost in Vietnam, Black Males [Democrats] between the age of 15-35 [2% of the population] commit 50% of the murders by firearms in this country. So your assertion that Republicans commit the majority of murders by firearm is absurd and false.

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