By Shan O'Connor:
As we say goodbye to the summer of 2020 and welcome the start of autumn on September 22nd, I find myself struggling with a myriad of emotions, as are most Americans. The past six months have proven to be some of the most difficult, terrifying, and sorrowful we have ever endured. Many of us have felt the impact now on personal levels from COVID-19, as social distancing drags on with life only just recently getting back to a small semblance of normalcy.
For many of us, when we were able to see our friends and families again from a safe distance, some were missing, having fallen victim to the virus. Some were able to say their goodbyes only through the help of modern technology, while others were unable to bid farewell at all. In addition to mourning lost lives, the country’s unemployment numbers have soared as this pandemic continues to rage, leaving 8.7 million Americans without work—more than double the numbers seen during the last recession in 2007 through 2009. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have a job to return to—or those essential workers who have braved the front lines since the start of it all—are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
Those on the West Coast began the month battling devastating wildfires, which to date have burned more than 4.6 million acres in 10 states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC). Protests demanding an end to police brutality continue as it seems we hear of another senseless death or act of violence against people of color almost daily.
In the midst of everything, we are in the middle of a particularly nasty election year, bringing with it more division than I can recall ever seeing in this country, at least in my own lifetime. Even as the current and former candidates call for unison, I see a further divide. I see people from all sides of the aisles focusing on the ways in which we are different rather than the ways in which we are the same. I see a nation crumbling upon its very foundations because of it.
This election year, perhaps more than any other since the founding of this country, the core principles of American government are at risk. Among those most threatened are our system of checks and balances and separation of powers; the right to equality as human beings and equal treatment under the rule of law; our constitutionally protected right to vote to ensure our voice is heard is under attack via voter suppression, gerrymandering, and partisan manipulation.
All this being said, it’s no wonder why so many Americans are angry, why so many of us are feeling hopeless, forgotten, and our cries for real, fundamental change seemingly unheard. It’s easy to see why so many have given up and feel their vote doesn’t matter. It’s easy to fall into this despondency and apathy.
It is at these times—when it seems the darkest, the most bleak and useless—that we must all rise. Elections are won by the people who take action and vote. Make a stand by exercising the right to make your voice heard where it can make a real difference. We must become the change we want to see in this country.
While the candidates say “Keep America Great” and “Our Best Days Still Lie Ahead,” there is only one way in which either of these are achievable: together. We must all find the mental fortitude, the maturity, and inner strength to reach across partisan lines that have caused this great divide. We must no longer allow ourselves to be pitted against one another. I am reminded of a quote in these troubling times.
“The downfall of the attempts of governments and leaders to unite mankind is found in this—in the wrong message that we should see everyone as the same. This is the root of the failure of harmony. Because the truth is, we should not all see everyone as the same! We are not the same! We are made of different colours and we have different cultures. We are all different! But the key to this door is to look at these differences, respect these differences, learn from and about these differences, and grow in and with these differences. We are all different. We are not the same. But that's beautiful. And that's okay. In the quest for unity and peace, we cannot blind ourselves and expect to be all the same. Because in this, we all have an underlying belief that everyone should be the same as us at some point. We are not on a journey to become the same or to be the same. But we are on a journey to see that in all of our differences, that is what makes us beautiful as a human race, and if we are ever to grow, we ought to learn and always learn some more.”
― C. JoyBell C.
May we all remember to look for ways to help heal one another, be kind to one another, and to live by the words in this quote. These virtues and characteristics embody the America I want, the America I love. For if we lose these things, what’s going to be left of us as a collective society? May we all become a voice calling for unity.
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