“If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.” – President Abraham Lincoln
I grew up in a small town, I graduated from a small school, and I attend a small church. It’s easy to be polite to people when you know everyone and their history. Just driving around my small town of about 1,000 people, I’ll wave at dozens of people, many of whom have known my family for decades. We’ll greet each other, ask how things are going, and be genuinely interested in the things going on in each other’s lives.
We were raised this way. Our parents and grandparents instilled in us a sense of community and plain old politeness that we extend even to strangers. Even at a young 20-years-old, it’s strange for me to think that these values aren’t the norm anymore. They’re now just “traditional” and out of date.
Our politicians used to display these characteristics as well. Even as recently as the 1980’s, Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan worked together from opposite sides of the aisle with mutual admiration and respect. For most of our history, Americans from all walks of life would run for office and travel to Washington with the intent to work together, not only for the betterment of themselves, but also for the benefit of the country.
This stands in stark contrast to today’s political environment. Our senators bash each other on the Senate floor. Our Representatives refuse to work together on simple issues. Name-calling, bitterness, and contempt have taken over both major parties, and this rudeness even drives Republicans to slam fellow Republicans and Democrats to tear down fellow Democrats. Americans claim to dislike negative campaigning, but they feed on the drama it creates.
This is a call to return to those “old-fashioned” values that guided our parents, grandparents, and many generations before us. I’m not referring to socially conservative values like being against abortion, supporting traditional marriage, and fearing God before all else (although I support these as well). I’m simply talking about respect. It shouldn’t be taboo to have friends who reside on the opposite end of the political spectrum. It shouldn’t be taboo for a Republican senator to be seen embracing a Democrat in a friendly hug. It shouldn’t be taboo for people to get along and compromise with those who disagree with them.
We must remember that while we are Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, young and old, Christians and atheists, we are all Americans. If we start showing respect towards our fellow man, we won’t need one man to make America great again – we’ll do it on our own.