Margaret Wilson Reckling: Guest opinion
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
In my son’s room, above his desk, hangs an antique print that belonged to my father. It is a rendering of George Washington atop his gray horse issuing an order to a young soldier, and it reads, “Put none but Americans on guard tonight.”
It’s a bold and clear command. Its brevity accentuates the importance of trust in those who love their fledgling, new freedom in a promising land called America. Gen. Washington wanted men who were ready to put their country first, ahead of personal interests and agendas. They were certain fighters, devoid of any lingering allegiance to England and, in actuality, dying to be free of government oppression and control.
It is with this pure thought and love of liberty that the Continental Army was able to withstand great hardship and loss of life. Their determined commitment to outlast the British forces makes Americans today the beneficiaries of the freest nation in the history of the world.
With this historical reminder and respect for our freedom-fighting predecessors, I am dumbfounded by today’s practice of fellow Americans hurling insults at one another. Clearly, we have fallen victim to placing our political philosophies ahead of our love of country. Has today’s American lost the ability to recognize the generations of sacrifice and the many lives given in the pursuit of sweet freedom? Thomas Jefferson exclaimed, “My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!”
It’s the beauty of freedom that allows us to choose the way we wish to live our lives, not to belittle our neighbor when they choose a way other than our own. It becomes an abuse of our freedom to condemn our fellow Americans’ individual freedom to choose their political party, lifestyle or religion.
Differences of political opinion, and the virulent dialogue that accompanies them, weaken our national spirit and will permanently fracture us if left unchecked. To have hostile words become the weapons of political fervor that, in the end, dismantle this great nation would be an irony of which no American would be proud. Political opinions, if you have one, are best represented through your vote. Let your vote do the talking.
During this spiritual time of the year and on the cusp of 2012, I maintain hope that the American people can begin to see the divisive nature of this ongoing political vehemence. How can a nation accomplish unity in purpose when such reckless and damaging utterances are being exchanged among its leaders and its citizenry? It’s far more beneficial and strengthens the common good when political passions are put aside and we devote ourselves to country and one another first. Why diminish our ability to get along by becoming increasingly intolerant of personal freedoms?
Before we judge and demonize, let’s try to understand our neighbor. Let’s challenge ourselves to keep disagreements to a minimum and resolve differences quickly and amicably. Peacemakers create unity, and unity has an impressive power. With renewed common purpose we can set our minds on finding the answers to the challenges we face as a nation. “United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs,” said Patrick Henry in his final speech in 1799.
Though the challenges of our country are seemingly infinite, we can, as individuals, assist in healing America’s self-inflicted wounds by kindness and thoughtful consideration of each other. Perhaps you are one of the countless people who have become apathetic as a result of the discouraging trend of animosity, government ineffectiveness and general hopelessness. It would be a great time to re-engage yourself in your community and the decisions regarding your government.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.” Let’s take a moment to learn from our own short history, and the history of the world. With the beginning of a new calendar year, maybe the resolution that needs to be No. 1 on all our lists is to foster goodwill, harmony and virtuous behavior toward one another. Respecting our heritage and preserving freedom – these are unifying practices.
When we become good citizens, our nation will thrive. If we all strive to do our part in being respectful of personal freedoms and choices, we will, in turn, honor the principles this wonderful country was first founded on. Let’s aim to neutralize criticism, downplay personal interests and be Americans first.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold amounts of suffering and disruption, and we’ll probably tell those stories for the rest of our lives.