Believe it or not, I really do not like being political. For the majority of my life I have generally avoided political discussions. Most of the time I had little idea how the people that I knew voted nor did I pay much attention to what was happening in the halls of power. I remember overhearing an argument between my father and grandfather over the integration of schools in Arkansas that became rather testy. To this day I do not know what they actually said or how they may have felt about that moment in history.
It has only been in more recent times that I began to feel concern over the direction and divisiveness of our political thinking. I found myself reading more and more about the founding of our nation and the worries of its originators like Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. I learned of the policy disagreements between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. I took the time to attempt to understand why the issue of slavery had not been tackled earlier in our nation’s history. I became more and more enlightened through my studies.
I understand that politics have been a volatile undertaking since the beginning of time. The fact that we disagree on how things should be done is nothing new under the sun. Even a cursory parsing of world history demonstrates that humans have been arguing or even fighting over how to best live together from the beginnings of time. Nonetheless, there are moments when it is imperative to actually choose a side.
The ancestors that I know of who were here in the colonies fought in the American Revolution. I’m not sure if they had strong feelings about warring against the king or if they simply followed along with some of their neighbors. My great grandfather chose to stand with the union during the Civil War. Given that he was from Kentucky it must indeed have been a well thought out decision. My father and uncles volunteered to fight in World War II. My dad was quite young and entered the fray late, so he did not see any action, but he believed strongly in our nation.
I am a bonafide Baby Boomer. As a young college student I professed my allegiance to the Civil Rights movement but did little other than taking part in a few peaceful demonstrations. I was against the war in Vietnam because I did not believe that it was in the best interest of our country. I was never against those who had been drafted or who had choses to fight. In fact, my main motivation was to end the war and bring them safely home.
After that I generally snoozed through the ups and downs of politics. I voted regularly and without any kind of distinct pattern in my choices. I suppose I would be called an independent whose main interests were in social issues. Perhaps this is a result of my own childhood in an economically challenged family and the stories that my mother told me of her experiences as a child of immigrants. Financial issues meant little to me because I had devoted my life to a career in education which essentially meant that I would never get rich.
In these times my political concerns continue to revolve around the well-being of others. I am comfortable and content with my own situation, but I have dedicated my life to helping those less fortunate to climb their way out of difficult situations. I have been a strong advocate for fairness and opportunity for all. That is the essence of what matters to me.
As an educator I encountered bullies and unkindness. I witnessed abuse and the struggles of children afflicted with learning disabilities or just plain bad luck in circumstance. My goal was to do anything in my power to help the wounded souls who entered my classroom as much as those who talents and characteristics were extraordinary. I advocated for excellence for all of them. I pushed back on those intent on abusing them.
I write this because I have long been silent on an issue that bothers me. We have a President of our country who by his own admission struggled to speak and to read because of a terrible stutter that he had. Luckily his parents encouraged him to ignore the taunts and work hard to overcome his disability. With great effort he did in fact learn to speak deliberately and slowly enough to avoid the pitfalls of his speech. He rose to be a champion for the underdog just as I always was and became the President of the United States.
Instead of lauding him for being able to overcome what must have been such a public difficulty, we allude to some ridiculous idea that his verbal missteps must be a sign of mental deterioration. We do not stop to think that in order not to stutter, President Biden must slow down his responses. His brain must control his stuttering and answer difficult questions at one and the same time. That has to be incredibly challenging and now again there is sure to be a misstep here and there.
I have a slight case of dyslexia. Sometimes when I have been teaching for long hours I begin to reverse numbers, copy problems down incorrectly. My students have to correct me. I am not losing my ability to perform mathematical calculations. I have not forgotten the algorithms or theorems. My mind simply twists around what I see with my eyes once in awhile. It a disability which provided me with sympathy and patience for others who for whatever reason must take a bit longer to learn and respond.
Who among us would hold up to the intensity of the presidency without making a slip or the tongue or momentarily forgetting a word or a name or an idea. I know that I sometimes see a former colleague and have to collect my thoughts before remember his/her name. I often fumble for the word I want to use. I say things that sound ridiculous when I am too hasty in speaking. I have often been accused of being slow, even by teachers who eventually praised my intellectual acumen when I showed them that I simply learned differently.
We have applauded ugliness and insults for too long. It is time that we return to respectfulness and a sense of unity for the sake of each other and our nation. Our founders purposely called this country the United States of America. If they had wanted us to continually be divided we would have only been The States of America. It’s time we remembered that there are many countries that are part of north and south America. There is only one nation that is who we are and should be, The United States of America. Our founders wanted to form a more perfect union. They understood that there is no perfect union. Let’s stop the ridiculous bickering. It does no good for any of us. Let’s make the United States great again by being a nation that is respectful, empathetic, accepting and courageous. Let’s strive for that more perfect union.