A time to think about who we are and who we are becoming | Opinion

November 29, 2021 5:45 am

When the holiday season is over, we will be besieged with candidates vying for our vote in the upcoming 2022 elections. Become engaged and informed. We need not continue the path we are on (photo by Stanciuc/Stock Images).

As we begin to resume some sense of normalcy in our lives during this holiday season, and as we gather with family and friends, it behooves us to think about and discuss a not so simple question: “Who are we?”

Who are we becoming, as a nation, as a city, as a community or as a family unit?

The future wellbeing of every person depends on everyone else. Our destiny is intertwined. These questions beg our attention.

As a nation, we have been and continue to be confronted by forces, and a lot of challenges — politics, the economy, social unrest, a seemingly uncontrollable pandemic.

The effects of these tensions and conditions are seen and felt in our states, cities, communities and our very households.

Who is America today? What is she becoming as a nation?

Looking at current debilitating actions — wanton lies, misrepresentations, disrespect, disregard for traditions and our Constitution — that happen almost daily in the halls of government, on partisan media and polarized communities across the country, it seems America is experiencing a major identity crisis.

If there are common ties that bind us and can lift us out of the negative morass and divisive state in which we find ourselves, what are they? How can each of us begin to promote and practice them in our daily interactions with each other?

A commitment to the answers could produce a sense of hopefulness that lasts beyond the holiday season.

We can begin by examining some basic beliefs and practices when it comes to our common humanity and those things that promote a good society.

For example: Distinguishing the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, selfishness and unselfishness, patriotism and sedition, racism and non-racism, white supremacy and nationalism, a concerned citizen and an unbridled zealot, 2nd Amendment Rights and vigilante justice.

The list of blurred, blatant and misguided actions being played out in many aspects of our daily lives is dangerously long. Our collective tolerance of and apparent indifference toward these destructive behaviors indicate that there may be no end in sight.

What a slippery slope.

But America need not slide into irreparable or irretrievable brokenness. Such a state need not be the hopeless fate that we leave our children and their children.

How do we stop the slide?

We are at a critical crossroads. The very fabric of what defines America seems to be unraveling in front of our very eyes.

First and foremost, we can no longer ignore the reckless distortions, dismissive attitudes and destructive actions occurring all around us. We are already seeing dangerous consequences. To ignore them is only to allow them to take hold and get worse.

We are at a critical crossroads. The very fabric of what defines America seems to be unraveling in front of our very eyes.

Our collective moral compass seems to be no longer working, providing good direction.

Even though America is far from perfect, there have been values that we, as citizens, have honored, respected and adhered to. We value individual rights. We value freedom of speech. We value patriotism and love of country. We value representative government, and we expect candidates we vote for to function in the best interests of ourselves, families, communities, and yes, our country.

If asked, no doubt many would proclaim, likely with righteous indignation: “YES, I believe in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution.”

The overriding problem in the current environment is the growing trend that these rights and freedoms are not or should not be extended automatically to all citizens.

How do we stop this destructive divisive trend?

During this very partisan and potentially destructive time in our nation’s history, we must take time to revisit and discuss the meaning of these documents and rights with our family, friends, and in community forums with emphasis that they apply to all Americans.

Let our discussions include the values that make America great during a time when they seem to be minimized or forgotten.

Most of us expect honesty and integrity from elected officials and government employees just as we do from others with whom we interact. Our attention to truth is more important than ever. Listen critically. Listen intently.

Passive, intermittent attention on what is occurring all around us is simply not enough.

As the holiday season unfolds, and the traditional frenzy of shopping for gifts and gadgets subsides, hopefully there will be time for some much-needed conversations about the state of our nation, our city, our community, our family unit.

Such conversations need not be contentious or disruptive should they take place during or after holiday gatherings with family and friends.

One way to have ongoing and meaningful discussions is to establish rules of engagement. The first is to listen attentively to each other’s positions and opinions and try to understand what they are based upon. Agree that it is okay to disagree.

Everyone will come to the conversation with their own orientations, understandings, and experiences — many in common, many not. Be willing to show patience and respect.

Focus on the ultimate goal that needs to be achieved: How to stop the self-destructive course we seem to be on as Americans, the evidence of which is played out before our very eyes, every day.

Is it too much to ask — as we have an opportunity to reflect with our loved ones, colleagues, and neighbors — what each of us can do better to put America on a more positive path?

As tired as we might be from all that we have been through, as difficult as it might appear, we cannot afford to turn a blind disinterested eye. Not only is the quality of life as we know it at risk, but how America will operate in the future is at stake.

When the holiday season is over, we will be besieged with candidates vying for our vote in the upcoming 2022 elections. Become engaged and informed. We need not continue the path we are on.

Our immediate and long-term future as a nation is riding it.

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.