I just read a story about Rev. Jerry Falwell and Sen. Ted Kennedy. Reverend Falwell was a Baptist preacher and founder of the Moral Majority. Senator Kennedy was a democratic senator and a big player in fighting for same-sex marriages, abortion and government funded health care. Both were extremely outspoken and controversial. Both had loyal followers and equally loyal detractors. By all accounts these two men should have been enemies. They met at a rally where they both were invited to speak. Sen. Kennedy was invited to have dinner with the Falwells that night and from that time on a friendship was forged between these two unlikely men. When Kennedy's elderly mother was sick, he called the reverend and asked for prayer. When the reverend ended up in the hospital with severe pulmonary edema, the senator's letter was the first to arrive at the hospital. The story that I mention here was written by Reverend Falwell's son, who tells another story of how he ended up at the same law school that Kennedy attended because of the senator's recommendation. I love this story of unlikely friendship. It is an example of what seems to be missing in our country these days. A certain definition of "tolerance" that, by all accounts no longer applies. When did the meaning of "tolerance" veer away from meaning "I don't agree with you but I still respect and care for you..." to " You need to embrace every nuance of my agenda or you are a bigot, fear-monger, conservative, republican, liberal, hater, ideologue, racist..."?
I have been thinking about the name of our country, almost nonstop as the elections wrap up. I have deep concern, and it isn't political, it isn't who is in control to House or the Senate. My concern is about losing the reality of our nation's name. What has happened to the UNITED States of America? I have watched in alarm as we are taking sides in every way possible. I have seen us more and more polarized than ever, and it is very unsettling. I live in dread that it might take a tragedy of 9/11 proportions for us to remember that we are still Americans; we are still "one nation under God". We have begun to judge one another in the shallowest ways possible and fully believe that we are justified. As I have endured those awful campaign commercials, dragging their opponent's character through the mud, I feel like I am voting between guests on the Jerry Springer Show. What baffles me is that this isn't that first election that these commercials have appeared. Does that mean that political strategists have proof that these commercials actually work? There is such angst in these elections, and it is just a symptom of what is happening to us as well. I do not want to be known as a conservative, republican, Hispanic woman. I want to be known as a child of God, a loving wife and a dedicated mother, and if there is anything I can do for anyone, I will do it. And I pray that my democratic sign-waving neighbor will gladly and lovingly accept me in my hour of need. I dare to fantasize that we can have a thriving friendship where we can talk, laugh, cry and build each other up.
I beg those that have actually lasted to this point in the blog to deliberately remind yourselves that we live in the "United" States of America.