Divided we stand: In praise of dissent

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© David Chartrand

    The Trump presidency is giving dissent and debate a bad name.  A CNN poll finds that Americans are “deeply troubled” by the current atmosphere of anger and bickering. (The deeply troubled clarify that they are referring to the anger and bickering among persons other than themselves.)

   A kinder, gentler nation?  Forget our differences? Nothing could be more un-patriotic.

   America has always been a haven for clashing viewpoints: Liberal and conservative, Mac and PC, caff and decaff, cable TV and satellite, not to mention those who use loud leaf blowers on Saturday morning when other people are trying to sleep vs. those who rake quietly. We are a people torn between those who represent traditional, moral values and those who represent whatever is the opposite of traditional moral values.

    A presidential election doesn’t create such divisions so much as it reveals them. Americans are cantankerous, rambunctious and proud of it.

    One Midwestern columnist wrote recently that Trump won the presidency “by dividing the country along fault lines of fear, intolerance, ignorance and religious rule.” There now is a desperate need, she added, “for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together … healing.”

   Heal what? Discord and disagreement are not diseases. The urge to speak one’s mind is not some condition that requires medication. We don’t need to get over our differences. If I want to hold hands and pray with total strangers I’ll attend Sunday Mass.  Pounding the table over President Trump has provided an interim national pastime that lets us blow off steam until the baseball season.

    The problem with political “healing” is that the cure often is worse than the disease. Unity and teamwork are interesting theories for marriage and football. But I get nervous when politicians and government officials ask me to “come together” and “work as a team” for the common good. Usually this is code for, “Sit down and shut up.”

       Personally, I sleep like a baby knowing that my homeland tolerates all viewpoints, even the really dumb ones.

      At the risk of joining those always quoting Harry Truman, I shall now quote Harry Truman, who, I must point out, is always referred to as the “feisty” Harry Truman. During a 1948 presidential campaign stop in San Antonio, Mr. Feisty said:

    “I am the servant of the people of the United States,” Truman said.  “They are not my servants.  I can't order you around or send you to labor camps or have your heads cut off if you don't agree with me politically. We don’t believe in that. I believe that if we ourselves try to live as we should . . . eventually we will get peace in this world. This is what I am interested in. That is what I am working for. That is much more important than whether I am President of the United States."  Then he punched a heckler in the throat.

     The year 2017 is no time to put down our swords; it’s time to put up our dukes.  Tranquility doesn’t bring change. Anger brings change. The minute we lower our voices is also the minute we become complacent about hunger, civil rights, public education, immigrants, the elderly, the disabled and the uninsured. Rancor is always the better medicine, in spite of the warning labels.

   This is no time to kiss and make up, America.  It’s time to rumble.