We must stop tearing each other down

Let’s skip the debate over whether our president bears even a smidgen of blame for contributing to the domestic terrorist incidents last week in the United States.

Let’s agree we are never going to agree, so there’s no use driving each other’s blood pressure higher by talking more about that.

Yes, there will always be people who are so mentally disturbed they think they are improving life in our United States by gunning down 11 people in a synagogue or by mailing 13 pipe bombs to people the culprit, and the president, dislike.

Having said that, I wonder when will Americans and our political leaders stand up and say enough is enough?

When will Americans acknowledge that nothing good is coming from all of us yelling at each other while the veins bulge in our necks?

When will Americans admit that just because we have the right to say whatever is on our minds, that doesn’t mean this fire hose of anger and bitterness is helping matters in any way, shape or form?

When will all Americans recognize that nothing good comes from these incidents when people like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Ted Cruz and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders are shouted out of restaurants while trying to dine quietly with friends and family?

And when will Americans – especially our Republican friends and Republican officeholders – speak out against the president’s incendiary name-calling and venom-filled rhetoric?

Yes, he has gotten two justices confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and yes, he has rolled back many government regulations. But that would have occurred anyway, given the Republicans’ majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.

Is it really helping our nation to have the president refer to people who disagree with him as “wacky and totally unhinged,” or “evil,” or “animals”?

Do we really think our system of government and our nation’s political discourse are improved when opponents of the president feel welcome to call him mentally ill and when the president feels compelled to hang derogatory nicknames on people – think of “Crooked Hillary” or “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz – who have the audacity to criticize him?

There are some unpleasant facts of life that both sides fail to grasp. Donald Trump will be president at least until Jan. 20, 2021, and politicians, voters and other commentators who dislike his style of governing and disagree with the decisions he makes are free to criticize him as often as they wish.

Our president wears his willingness to “punch back” as a badge of honor. He believes this is part of his appeal to a segment of the people who support him.

But going back to George Washington, our presidents have tried to mend the divisions among people and to pull the fissures of society back together. Admittedly, they’ve had varying degrees of success, even with their heartfelt efforts.

Franklin Roosevelt told us during the Great Depression that the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. Ronald Reagan reminded us during the upheaval of the 1980s that the world sees the United States as that shining city upon on a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.

And over the weekend, while the nation debated the president’s language and heard more “lock her up” chants at another Trump rally, historian Michael Beschloss reminded us of the last words in a speech that President John Kennedy planned to give in Austin, Texas, on the evening of Nov. 22, 1963.

The speech was never delivered. Kennedy was assassinated that afternoon.

Kennedy planned to say: “Our duty as a party is not to our party alone but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.

“So, let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our nation’s future is at stake.

“Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause – united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future – and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.”

That’s what leadership looks like.

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Randy Evans is executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and retired opinion editor at the Des Moines Register. He is a native of Bloomfield, Iowa, and now lives in Des Moines. He can be reached at DMRevans2810@gmail.com

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