Our Better Instincts

38869597_303They were a sweet family with a good home, and best of all they were happy. But then came war, unsafe conditions. Bombs went off continually so close by that they could hear the falling rubble created from the blasts. They were on the wrong side of the fight. Sooner or later the invaders were bound to get to their street, their house. Sleep began to elude them. Their small children continually cried. They knew that they had to leave no matter how much they wanted to stay. They became refugees, members of a wandering group of people from war torn parts of the world searching for a safe place to live. They are unwanted in many places, thought to be pariahs, criminals, maybe even terrorists. All that they seek is safety, a new start, a place to call home.

It would be easy to simply ignore these desperate souls. After all, what have they to do with us? We have our own problems. We have yet to help all of our own people. They are foreigners with beliefs so different from ours. We barely have the resources that we need for the people who are already here. How can we possibly stretch ourselves any more? Besides, what if they are not really just good people caught in a bad situation? What if their intent is to harm us? Why should we risk our own safety for theirs? What’s in it for us? Will they even be able to work, or just be drains on our social programs? These are the questions that plague us and there are few clear answers. In truth there is a certain level of risk in taking in strangers from lands far away. It takes a leap of faith to consider both the problems and possibilities and still agree to do what seems to be the most humane action. What if we choose wrong? How will we live with that?

Thus is the difficulty that we face. Across the world the population of refugees from violent places continues to grow, and with it so do both our fears and our desires to be compassionate. The stakes are high for everyone concerned, most especially those waiting hopefully for someone somewhere to provide them with the breaks that they need to create better lives. While we debate the merits of inviting some of these people into our cities and towns, they are growing ever more discouraged and wondering if anyone truly cares about their situations.

I spent my life working with people, albeit young people. Human nature tends to be the same whether dealing with adults or children. Individuals have certain basic needs that must be met or they begin to react in unpredictable ways. They must feel safe and that means providing them with an environment that is as free of dangers as possible. It requires that they have food to abate their hunger and at least the bare necessities to protect them. When those things are lacking they are unable to rise to higher levels of development. Each day is a quest just to make it to the next. Survival is the only idea that captures their attention. Being continually subjected to a search for the most essential of our human needs takes its toll. Some will give up and wither away. Others will grow angry and lash out at a world that feels so unfair. Many simply persist until they somehow manage to change their circumstances.

As a society we never truly know how anyone will react to extreme difficulties. There are no doubt cases over which we have no power to inspire the good, but for the most part we do in fact have the opportunity to become positive influences. Some people are psychopaths or sociopaths who will not respond to our kindness. Even our best efforts with them may be ineffective and we may not be able to detect them until it is too late and they have done great harm. Generally speaking, however, the vast majority of humans will react positively to encouragement and compassion. When someone provides our fundamental needs and we are treated with respect, we are filled with gratitude because it is in our natures to want to be accepted members of society. Once we feel safe we are ready to contribute to the rest of mankind.

I watched a Frontline program on PBS which featured a number of refugees seeking asylum in different parts of the world. They had been ordinary souls before their homelands were torn apart. They shared a common desire to be understood and accepted by people willing to provide them with a new start. They had done desperate and even illegal things to protect themselves and their families from the violence in their home countries, each with differing levels of success. One family had quickly found relief in Germany. They were welcomed by the community and began the process of learning the language and adapting to the culture. They are now studying so that they might secure better employment. They want to be far more than just drains on the governmental programs. They work at difficult and menial jobs while they become more educated. They watch as their children forget the old ways and embrace the new. It seems that those who are not just welcomed by the locals, but are also actively supported and educated are happier and doing better than those placed in dreary camps with nothing to do all day long. Having someone believe in their worth has been the key to helping them to become part of the community.

When I teach mathematics the first thing that I do is build confidence. We humans can’t operate if we feel discouraged. Psychological barriers impede progress, so they must be dealt with from the outset. The same is true of refugee populations. What are they to think if people are reacting negatively to them without ever knowing who they are?

President Obama often suggested that much of the hatred in the world begins with rejection by society. In that idea he is correct. We tend to become who the people around us tell us that we are. If we are constantly criticized and given no occasions to define ourselves we sometimes believe the hateful slurs that we hear. We doubt our own abilities and fall prey to the truly evil who tantalize us with offers of being somebody important. All dictators, anarchists and terrorists use the worries of people to recruit their minions. If those of us who are good do not reach the hearts and minds of the needy, someone with nefarious intentions will, exacting a terrible price on all of us.

We have to open our eyes to the suffering of the world. We must work together to ensure that the downtrodden are able to find the peace that they seek. We cannot ignore their plight and then pretend that we are doing so just to protect ourselves and those we love. We will always have individuals who turn against us even when we are kind. Because that sometimes happens does not indicate that we should suspend humane treatment. It would be akin to saying that just because there is a chance that we might die in a car accident, we should never get inside an automobile again. We have to overcome our fears, and deal with the consequences of each individual decision that we make. This has been our human conundrum since the beginning of time. What is certain is that we cannot isolate ourselves from harm, but we do have the power and the responsibility to help as many souls as possible to find good and worthy lives.

While we are arguing over who should come to our shores there are hundreds of people living in want and fear. We can’t assist every one of them, but surely we can do more than we have done most recently. If we were the ones in need we would hope and pray that the better instincts of humans would find a way to help us. Perhaps it is time for us to consider what each of our responsibilities should be in this regard.


A Time To Remember

prodigal_sonI grew up in Catholic schools and we were not exactly Biblical scholars. I understood the gist of the stories and parables in that great book, but I would be lost if I had to name the chapters and verses that contain various elements. Still I have enough familiarity with the four books that comprise the volume that I am able to relate both the history in the Old Testament and the story of Jesus in the New. What I learned is that Jesus was all about love and redemption. Over and over again he pushed back against the rule oriented Pharisees and preached the importance of understanding that He had come to remind us all that God is open to each and every one of us and that it is never too late to ask for forgiveness.

Jesus was often misunderstood by the people of His time which ultimately resulted in His being hung from a cross like a common criminal. So it is little wonder that even people who profess to be experts in the interpretation of His words might come up with ideas that appear to be more in line with the Pharisees than with Jesus. Somehow we can all hear or read the very same passages and come up with differing interpretations of them. It’s been happening for centuries and no doubt will continue as long as we humans attempt to unravel the instructions of how best to use Jesus’ instructions for how to behave toward one another.

One of my favorite parables was that of the Prodigal Son. Jesus told this story after the Pharisees and other critics suggested that He was often sinful in the selection of people with whom He associated. They disliked that Jesus was friends with tax collectors and women of dubious character and such. They worried about how He flaunted the religious laws by performing miracles on the Sabbath. They felt that Jesus too often excused bad behavior when He should have instead condemned it. What they didn’t appear to understand is that Jesus was preaching a new way of living that promised every human a pathway to amnesty regardless of how egregious their sins might once have been. Somehow large numbers of people who purport to be loving Christians have forgotten this message and instead use fire and brimstone passages from the Old Testament to defend their unforgiving stances on various issues.

The whole idea of illegal immigration, and in particular the Dreamers is a perfect example of how very religious people have somehow become unwilling to even consider the idea of forgiving those who broke the law or those who were brought to our country without consent when they were children. We have forgotten the story of the the Prodigal Son, perhaps the most powerful tale that Jesus ever related. In it he spoke of a very wealthy man who had two sons, one of whom became impatient to receive his inheritance and asked his father to give it to him immediately. The errant son took his father’s treasure and went away with it, forgetting about his family and living a profligate life. After losing everything he was starving and desperate. He came back home with the intention of begging his father to take him back as a servant to earn his keep. Instead when the loving father saw his son returning he rushed out to meet him, instructing the servants to clothe his child in fine robes. He not only forgave his son but planned a celebratory meal for him. When the other son who had been faithful to his father heard what was happening he was irate, questioning why his brother should be honored when he had been so thoughtless. The father reminded the angry son that a parent’s love is unconditional and that by prostrating himself the prodigal son had demonstrated his willingness to change and seek forgiveness.

I think of this parable whenever the subject of illegal immigration is mentioned. I realize that we cannot as a nation continue to allow people to break the law without consequence, but there are people here who came for very good reasons which we may or may not understand. They have lived peacefully among us, working hard and doing their best to fit into our society. Since we did little to turn them back initially they have little hope of returning to their native countries and finding a livelihood because they have been gone for too long. The truth is that we sat back for decades and did nothing to stop them. Now many among us want to simply turn their backs on these people and send banish them without any thought to what doing so may mean. There are even some who wish to punish their children who were brought when they were too young to even understand what was happening. Like the Pharisees so many Americans and lawmakers only see the rules and not the humanity of the situation. They shout down any plan that might rectify the status of these individuals without giving them actual citizenship, but requiring them to come out of the shadows. They speak of amnesty as if it is a dirty word rather than one that Jesus Himself would no doubt have appreciated given His propensity for forgiving people thought to be hopelessly broken. 

I tend to believe that our political leaders who continually oppose all immigration plans that propose even a smattering of forgiveness are mostly concerned about losing political power. They don’t seem to realize that their unwillingness to bend and compromise even a bit is only exacerbating the problem. They spread silly ideas that they should not concern themselves with the fate of immigrants rather than the safety of Americans. They point to the lawlessness of those who would cross our borders without permission and insinuate that most who come here are criminals. They raise the fears of our citizens by suggesting that terrorists will be coming if we do not have a hard line. Instead of telling us what chain immigration is and why we have it, they just make us afraid of it. They point to criminals who came here through chain immigration as though such incidents are the norm. They constantly speak of rules that must never be broken, forgetting how often Jesus did just that to emphasize our need to be compassionate and loving. They conveniently forget the ultimate message of redemption by His death on the cross.

As I write this the government shut down for a short time because our leaders were at an impasse. A few days later they grudgingly agreed to a short term fix, but left all of the big problems for another day. Who knows how well those discussions are going to go given the fact that we haven’t had many bipartisan moments in years. We appear to no longer be able to compromise. I suspect that if our Founding Fathers had been this way we might all still be part of the British Empire like Canadians. They would have argued infinitely and gotten nowhere, which is where we are now. 

There are those who want to lay blame for the state of our union and I would like to suggest that there is plenty to go around to everyone including those of us who vote. Of late we have turned our backs on anyone who has shown the desire to bring the country together for the general good. While we are bickering real people are being hurt and we are forgetting about all of those beautiful parables that Jesus taught us, and yet Jesus Himself would be loving and understanding even of those of us who have sometimes forgotten or ignored His message. Maybe the time has come to remember it the way it was intended to be.

Remembering the Lessons

KnotTry to imagine this scenario. Groups of Americans from the United States begin to peacefully demonstrate against the president of our country in locales all across the country. The government sends in the military to quell the disturbances and in a show of force they gun down protesters. This angers even more people who join the rebellion which grows angry and violent. There are enraged armed mobs in your town fighting against the soldiers. You watch as the disturbances grow into all out civil war. The lines between enemies are blurry and take on a religious aspect as well as political. Splinter groups form, some of which are barbaric. You and your family members are caught in the crosshairs. Bombs from the government come into your neighborhood. Bullets from the rebels forces lodge in the walls of your home. Terrorists taking advantage of the unrest kill your friends and relatives in the most brutal manners. What was once a place of peace has become hell on earth. You do not want to leave your home but fear that if you do not, you and those that you love will surely die. A final blast of chemical weapons from the government forces convinces you that it is no longer safe to stay in the place that has always been your refuge. You watch children who live near you dying in the cruelest manner. You can’t take the horror any longer and so you decide to flee.

At first you make your way to Mexico or Canada. You are placed in a refugee camp with thousands of others. You are told that you may not stay indefinitely. There are too many of your kind seeking escape from the war. Your temporary residence is infested with crime and want. You live in a tent that is either too hot or too cold. Disease breeds freely in the unsanitary conditions. You feel only slightly better than you did in the place from which you have fled. You try to get to other places that might be more welcoming or more pleasant. The process is difficult and even if you are lucky enough to gain a passage to some nice town in Europe the residents of those places view you with suspicion and disdain. All you really want is to be able to sleep at night without fear. Your dream is to one day be able to return to your home and begin your life anew. Your whole world is upside down and none of it is of your own doing. It all feels so hopeless.

In the meantime, different nations are choosing sides in the battle that rages back in the United States. Not only are there disagreements to resolve between the government and the rebels but also different factions within factions as well as other countries. It is such a tangled mess that you despair that it will ever be possible to sort things out and find the peace that you so desire. You cry for your country and for yourself as years pass without resolution and the gordian knot of trouble only grows tighter.

Of course, these events are not unfolding in the United States but in Syria. Try as we may we will never know the heartache that has so defined the lives of the people of that country since 2011. Their nation sits on the Mediterranean Sea just across from Egypt bordering the countries of Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. The war has displaced more than two million people and stretched the resources of their neighbors and countless European nations. Diplomatic and military efforts have failed to broker any kind of resolution and all the while terrorist groups like ISIL have taken advantage of the situation to make their own claims on the land and its citizens. Shia Muslims have taken to fighting with Sunni Muslims. Russia, China, and Iran side with Syrian President Assad. The United States, Germany, Britain and France have attempted to aid the rebels. It is a standoff that threatens the Middle East, Europe and much of the rest of the world.

I cry for the people of Syria. I understand that the vast majority of them simply want to be left alone and allowed to return to their homes where they might live in peace. None of the rest of us want war either. Nobody seems to have any idea of what is the most effective solution to a daunting problem. Here in the United States we have learned that sending troops and treasure to fight battles can be a solution with no endgame. We have also seen that diplomacy does little. We are caught in a conundrum in which the choices are all unpleasant and the results are uncertain. Do we do nothing and let the people of Syria figure out the path to eventual peace or do we choose a side and commit to fighting for what we believe is right?

The answer to such a question is both confusing and frightening. If we stay out of the fray, things may only escalate and make the situation even more dangerous for all of the world. If we show force we may become involved in a fight from which we cannot extricate ourselves without great loss of life. It feels as though even the wisdom of Solomon might be wanting in knowing what to do.

Today is Good Friday, a day on which we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Politics and religious debates were in full force in the time of Christ just as they are today. An innocent man was put to death for fear that his teachings might result in a rebellion that would topple the power structure. Two thousand years later mankind is still feuding over differences in beliefs but millions in all parts of the globe now follow the lessons of Jesus. His message was powerful and his disciples spread the good news of his word in spite of their own persecutions. It is rather amazing to realize that Jesus Christ is even more revered today than he was when he walked in the Middle East two thousand years ago.

This is a time of reflection and prayer in the world. Perhaps it should also be the moment when we join with people of all faiths in imploring the heavens to help us find a resolution to the unrest that so threatens all of us. We can be inspired by the life of Christ whose constant admonition and example was that we forgive and love. I wonder how we can possibly solve the problems of other nations when we continue to be so hateful with one another right here in the United States. It is truly time for us to set our personal differences aside one individual at a time. It is the moment for us to shed our pride, our hypocrisies and our obstinance. Those are the elements that lead to a Syrian-like war. First come the words and then come the weapons. We must do whatever we need to bind the wounds that have turned  brother against brother right here in our own nation. Perhaps once we have learned to be civil with one another again we will enjoy the combined wisdom of many points of view in finding solutions to the problems that plague our world. I truly fear our future if we fail to return to a state of understanding and humanity within our own ranks. It is only in valuing our collective differences that we will be able to exert the power needed to propel ourselves and the world in the direction of good. 

The Conversation

early_summer_morning_513429I had a long conversation with my grandson this past weekend. I had traveled to visit him and his family during the long holiday day weekend. One morning he and I arose before the rest of the household and we had an opportunity to quietly talk about this and that.

He is a serious and sensitive young man who only recently became a teenager. He thinks long and hard about a number of things. He loves to build with Legos and his room is filled with Star Wars spacecraft and enough buildings for an entire town. He has bridges and cars and trains all made from the tiny blocks. He is quite proud of his collection. He assembles the pieces and then displays the intricate items that he has but together on bookshelves and table tops. His room is a veritable Lego museum. It’s fun just to browse all of his creations.

He is a rather interesting fellow. He collects elements and put them in little jars attached to a magnetic board in the shape of the Periodic Table. He has models of the planets hanging from his ceiling. He’s rather sentimental about his possessions, many of which date back to the time when he was a toddler. He could name the planets and their moons when he was only twenty months old and he has always had a curiosity about the world and how it works. He enjoys mathematics and appears to have a profound sense of numbers. He is a deep thinker so it didn’t surprise me much when our early morning talk turned to ideas about the world and the seeming unfairness that exists in the distribution of food and wealth.

My grandson was feeling a bit guilty because he desperately wanted a new Lego set but would have to wait until he had earned enough money doing chores around the house. He was feeling impatient and had even felt a bit sorry for himself but now he was sensing that his greed was inappropriate. His guilt was couched in the knowledge that he has had a very good life from the moment that he was born. He thought of all the young men his age around the world who live in terrible conditions both because of economics and political situations. He knew that his impatience in wanting to purchase those Legos right now was somehow wrong but he confessed to sometimes wishing that he had even more resources so that he would never have to wait to gratify his wishes. He even admitted that he had never really known any people his age who were poor. He had only read and heard about them.

We spoke of children that I had taught who literally lived in cars or garages or homes with dirt floors. I mentioned a little girl who had only wanted a bed for Christmas because she was tired of sleeping on the hard wood of her living room. He said that he often thought of the children engulfed in the civil war in Syria. He found it difficult to even imagine what it must be like to have an entire way of living torn asunder. He wondered what he might do at his age to help to right some of the wrongs that occur around the globe.

We spoke of change and how difficult it often is to break from comfortable routines. He is a creature of habit who prefers the quiet of his home and familiar friends. He has a certain way of doing things but he realizes that the demands of the world are such that he will have to learn how to adapt. I spoke to him of my own fears of the unknown and how we all worry more than we probably need to do.

It was quite nice having the special time with him. We are usually surrounded by a house full of people and rarely have the occasion to just talk and let the conversation go wherever it may lead. It was a treat for both of us, confirmed by the especially big hug that he gave me once our little soiree was interrupted as the rest of the family began to awaken.

I so often hear negative assessments of today’s young people. It is sometimes suggested that they are self centered, lazy, prone to feeling entitled, unthinking. My experience with them is just the opposite. They are as concerned about our world and its future as we were when we were young. They are feeling pulled in hundreds of different directions including attempting to become accustomed to their changing bodies. They constantly feel the pressure of the high expectations that adults have for them and desire more than anything to make their elders happy while also being true to themselves. Like my grandson their concerns are not always about themselves. They are very aware of the inequalities that exist and they are desirous of finding ways to decrease or eliminate them. They are curious but frightened about how world events will unfold and what effect they will have on them. They want to be brave and strong and good but sometimes wonder if they are up to the challenges that they face. In other words they are much like youth have been throughout history.

I have always believed that each of us have multiple duties in life. We must fulfill our own destinies but we also have responsibilities to both those who are too old to care for themselves any longer and those who are young. We have rights but with those rights come duties that we can never neglect. The lessons of childhood must teach our kids how to be proud of themselves as individuals but also how to care about the people around them. Nobody exists in a vacuum. Each of us has to consider the needs of others. Our lifetimes are filled with ups, downs, triumphs, tragedies and we must be able to cope with whatever comes our way. All of us are constantly modeling behaviors to the children around us. They will mimic whatever they see us doing. If we show respect to all people they will as well. If we are willing to sacrifice now and again so too will they. By the same token if we are abusive or selfish they will come to believe that they don’t have to care about anyone but themselves. Behaviors are learned and very difficult to undo once they have been ingrained.

I feel quite optimistic about the future. I have seen damaged youngsters for sure but more often than not I encounter teenagers who are experimenting a bit but never wandering very far from the beliefs of their families. For the most part parents continue to do their jobs quite well and their children continue to grow into happy and healthy adults just as people have for centuries. We all have a stake in how things will turn out. Hopefully each of us will do our best to provide our young with the support and models that they need. It’s also a good idea to have conversations with them now and again. They can be quite enlightening. 

At Odds With Ourselves

79310435_131963728899I’ve spoken before of my great grandfather John William Seth Smith who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. I know what I do about his service because he died fairly young and his widow, my great grandmother, filed for a pension from the Army based on strong evidence that his health woes began while he was serving in that horrible conflict. In official documents she describes the horrific conditions that he endured that left him with multiple health problems from which he never improved. She furthermore noted the depression that he suffered from the memories of war that weighed heavily on him all the days of his life.

I suspect that many young men from both the north and the south were permanently damaged from what they saw. There is never anything easy about being on a battlefield and the trauma of being a soldier must have been doubly compounded by the reality that the men were sometimes fighting their brothers and neighbors. I can’t even begin to imagine how horrible the four years were during which the very life of our country was under siege. Surely the differences that divided the citizens might have been settled in less extreme ways. In retrospect it is quite clear that the fighting was foolhardy and immensely hurtful to everyone but at the time there were far too many who harbored so much anger that they were unable to engage in rational negotiations. A complete and total severing of relationships appeared to be the only feasible path. Four years later the flower of youth in both north and south had been decimated by the rancor.

I’d like to think that we have learned a powerful lesson from that terrible war, but of late I have begun to worry that perhaps we no longer remember the price that people paid in refusing to settle differences. My grandfather was one of the lucky ones who lived through the battles but his body and his mind were both with riddled pain from what he witnessed. I suspect that if he were able to speak to us today he would warn us to beware of the unwillingness to compromise in our political leanings. In the end he found a modicum of peace only by living a rather isolated existence in the middle of a great forest as far away from any possible conflict as he was able to be.

Civil wars always take an immeasurable human toll. Right now there are so many places on earth where people from the same country are fighting with one another over ideologies, some of which are political and some religious. Innocents who only wish to be left alone have lost their homes, their possessions and their lives. In Iraq ISIS continues its reign of terror but even more terrible is the fact that people are often also victims of the infighting between Kurds and Muslims, Sunis and Shias, everyone and Christians. Nobody trusts anybody. Even watching a family walk innocently down the street is cause for fear lest any one of the members, including women and children, be a suicide bomber. Life has become hell for people in cities like Mosul which has become a place of ruin and fear 

Syria is has its own form of hell that has sent millions fleeing for safety. Sadly even in the refugee camps there is quibbling between are from different religious sects. Christians have had to flee from the sometimes gross mistreatment from their fellow refugees and many of them have been forced to live in the open in the mountains, homeless and frightened. The situations in these war torn areas are so complex that there are not simple answers.It saddens me to think of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, and I simply cannot understand how things become so inconsolable between people that they feel that hurting one another is the only answer.

There is far too much animosity brewing in the world at this moment and our own country is becoming more and more divided by the day. It is disheartening and frightening. I hear people speaking of riots, violence, coups and martial law. Such mutterings make me wonder if we are dangerously close to another civil war.

Fear all too often leads to anger and unrelenting anger begets hate. I worry that we are whipping ourselves into a frenzy. Even our leaders are boasting that they will never work with one another. It is as though they actually want us to break apart. They almost appear to delight in the battles. Mostly though what bothers me is the behavior that I see among the regular citizens who have become so enraged that they have lost sight of civility. Friends stand at odds with friends. Families are choosing up sides. There is an ever growing tension that is frightening. 

I posted an article on Facebook last week hoping to prompt some discussion of ideas. To say that the resulting commentary was lively is an understatement. I finally ended the back and forth by noting that in spite of the many different schools of thought, some of which were very different from my own, I still love everyone who contributed to the conversation. I find myself asking when we Americans became so loathe to allow differences of opinion. I wonder why we seem no longer able to learn from one another. When did we begin the practice of summarily dismissing anyone who dares to suggest an idea unaligned with our own?

I have observed multiple instances of friends and relatives reaching a point of no return in their relationships over discussions that grew unnecessarily dark and angry. Is this the way a civil rupture begins? Are we seeing the first bubbles in the bottom of a heated argument that will ultimately grow into a rolling boil? Why are we even risking the possibility of tearing our country apart? Why can’t we find a way to get along and why is there nobody willing to take the lead in doing it?

The media isn’t helping. In fact they seem to be almost unable to contain their glee over the excitement that is percolating. Our president isn’t making a move to bring us together. In fact he is stirring the pot, bragging about how great his ideas are and refusing to admit to mistakes or apologize for unfair insults. The democrats are little better in refusing to work with their republican peers and inciting even more anger. Everyone is boasting that they are going to fight. To what desirable end can all of this lead? As far as I can see it is only causing a rent in the fabric of our nation that will be difficult if impossible to mend. We have been this way before in our history and the outcome was not good. What would make any of us think that refusing to work together is going to solve any of the problems? Are our leaders so worried about being elected that they would rather tear our country apart than have the courage to bring it together again?

Yes. I am very worried. We do have many problems and there may even come a time but the ways in which our leaders are approaching them is very destructive. Those of us who are ordinary citizens will ultimately all be hurt and even more so if we turn on one another. I think that we all need to look into our hearts and find the will to be an example for our leaders who seem to have lost their way. They will ultimately bend to our will if enough of us join hands and let them know that we have want a government that strives to work together, not one based on gridlock and anger. We can start a movement by shoring up those relationships with our friends, and neighbors and kin with whom we may have disagreed in the past. We must begin to respect one another again and save our righteous indignation for the truly evil. Hate only leads to more hate. It is in love and forgiveness that we will find the safety and comfort that we all wish to enjoy.