Ad Spot

A necessity to preserve a nation

We are living in perilous times. Families, churches and neighborhoods are under assault. And not just by a deadly pandemic. America is divided by political disagreements and a rogues’ gallery of other issues that threaten to pit us one against another, in sometimes violent confrontations.

As a college student in the late 1960s and early ’70s, I disagreed with my southern father on just about every major issue of the day. As a WWII vet and Marine, he supported America’s continued military presence in Vietnam; I marched against it in the streets of Baton Rouge and planted crosses on the LSU quad to honor the fallen. He supported Nixon’s call for law and order; I saw the president as two-faced and would not have followed him to an ice cream shop.

Our discussions sometimes got heated and seemed to go nowhere. I see now that what saved our relationship was a mutual commitment to stay in conversation and allow one another the space to voice opinions without ridicule.

We tried to avoid giving the reality of our differences the power to destroy our relationship. We intuited that failing to do so would permit our prejudices to assume priority over our commitment to one another.

It saddens me, therefore, that in the 50 years since the end of the Vietnam War, the dislike and distrust of those with contrasting political opinions has only increased. According to a recent Pew Research Survey, majorities in both political parties (85% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats) say divisions between the two parties are increasing. In addition, majorities of Americans describe both parties as “too extreme.”

History is witness to the fact that extreme partisan animosity can be a prelude to democratic collapse. And, yes, Virginia, it can happen here.

Perhaps you have a family dinner or a virtual reunion coming up, and you dread the idea of conversing with your crazy Republican uncle or your radical Democratic aunt.

Perhaps you find yourself reading contentious back-and-forth comments on your social media account. Or maybe you are party to a contentious conversation in the grocery store or a parking lot. How do you maintain your calm and your integrity when you find yourself speaking across divides?

How do you typically respond in these situations? Do you just walk away, concluding that it’s best never to talk about politics or religion? Do you try to change someone’s mind? Do you just listen?

Spiritual texts and teachers tell us to love ourselves, love our neighbors and even love our enemies. Having productive and open-hearted conversations is one way we do that. In the weeks leading up to local, state and national elections, this kind of engagement is not only a critically important spiritual practice, but may prove necessary to preserve the nation.

Try it. You might like it.

Polk Culpepper is retired Episcopal priest, former lawyer and a resident of Washington.

 

 

Beaufort County

Beaufort County records 70th COVID-19-related death

Beaufort County

Health department announces additional COVID-19 vaccine appointments

Beaufort County

Rep. Kidwell to head pair of committees

Agriculture

Wildlife Commission to host virtual public hearing to review proposed rule changes for 2021-2022 season

Agriculture

Five-year statewide bird survey to begin in March

Agriculture

Got moles?

Beaufort County

Grant funds will help repair Turnage Theatre, Pantego Rosenwald School

Beaufort County

BCCC to livestream its third annual King celebration

Beaufort County

Health department hopes for increased vaccine allotment as NC expands eligibility

Beaufort County

More than 1,000 Beaufort County residents vaccinated

News

Washington ponders next step in Moss East development plan

Columns

Bringing Washington’s history to life

Beaufort County

Small business and real estate classes coming up

Beaufort County

New boatbuilding professor brings industry experience

Coronavirus

Hyde County COVID-19 update

Beaufort County

COVID-19 and flu stats at a glance

Beaufort County

Former Washington mayor remembered as respected leader, teacher

News Main

Latest 15th Street concept doesn’t include widening

Beaufort County

Local school temporarily switches to virtual learning

Belhaven

Belhaven plans Caboose Public Garden

Belhaven

Belhaven holds two public hearings focused on town progress

Beaufort County

Deed Transfers: Dec. 27, 2020-Jan. 2, 2021

Chocowinity

Chocowinity Police Department: Jan. 3-9, 2021

Beaufort County

Sheriff’s Office charges suspect in fatal shooting