Just a Thought…

By Maureen Hart

Last month, I decided to write a column about kiddie nursery rhymes instead of politics, reasoning that children’s songs were a lighter topic for my readers. But I still got lambasted by a woman who called my husband’s phone and told him that I should not have mentioned Donald Trump in my introductory paragraph about the things that are upsetting me in our world right now.

What she apparently did not understand is that I am privileged to write a “personal” column (called “Just a Thought,” meaning my thoughts) where I am free to discuss anything on my mind. I would remind readers that they have an equal opportunity to respond in a letter to the editor, as long as it has a legitimate signature and verifying phone number.

So, I don’t apologize for mentioning Candidate Trump in passing last month. Nevertheless, although I could easily write volumes about The Donald, I am not going to do so now. But it’s not because of one upset reader of The Dunmorean.

Instead, the reason I am not writing about the Republican candidate for president in this column is twofold. One, he is getting enough publicity without me, and, secondly, I think political debate has become too divisive. I will admit that I am terrified by the prospect of a Trump victory, and would love to share my opinions about that to any undecided voter, but here’s the thing—am I going to change anybody’s mind? And conversely, is anybody going to change my mind?

No. And no. So the only thing left to explore is animosity and angry debate, promoting the kind of divisiveness that is tearing this nation apart.

So, I will just say this: Vote for the candidate of your choice, but do so based on logic, not emotion; on facts, not innuendo, on a platform that coincides with your vision of America and with a view to the future—not only for us, but for all future generations.

When you make this decision, do not let the all-news (and I say that in jest) stations such as CNN, MSNBC or FOX provide all of your information. Each network has an  agenda. They are all about ratings. Hopefully, you watched the two conventions and listened first-hand to the proposals for our nation. They could not have been more dramatically different. Draw your own conclusions. You don’t need pundits to explain it to you.

Try to read about both sides. Go to the candidates’ websites and see what each has to say about the important issues of the day—this source will be unfiltered by other outlets. Read both. Then, listen to the upcoming presidential debates. Debates are generally good theater, but now and again you learn something important. After all of this, make your choice.

That’s all I ask you to do, and whatever side comes out a winner for you, fine.

As for me, I do have a lot of personal concerns when it comes to our future..

I worry about the state of our educational system. How can the greatest nation in the world be failing its young in the quality of its schools, teaching, and learning?

I worry about racism. I know people personally from almost every race and religion, and guess what? They have the same worries and concerns as the rest of us. They want peace, they want prosperity, they want justice. I am friends with Muslims, Hindus, Jews, atheists, a gay Mormon, and a lot of Christians. I have friends who are Arabs, Latinos, Asian and black…and they are not “others.” They are human beings.

I worry about our climate of fear. The haunting specter of 9-11 has irrevocably changed the mood of this country into one of constant fear. We are afraid to be in crowds, to go to the city, to fly in an airplane. As one who traveled to London two weeks after the terrorist attack there in 2005, I know what it is like to make a decision not to let the terrorists win. I was not going to cancel my vacation. It was bittersweet in some ways, but perhaps more meaningful.

When my daughter was sent on business to Southeast Asia last fall, I did not urge her to stay here where it is safe. I told her to go and to be careful and to be grateful for the opportunity to visit Bangkok and Manila. Truthfully, no place is safe anymore, but we can choose to live fully or to live fearfully. In the end, we will all die. It is a matter of how fiercely we embrace the life we have. And what we do for others.

I worry about social justice. About people getting a fair shake. I long for the day when women are paid exactly the same as a man in the same job. A recent news article pointed out that a female doctor is paid an average of $20,000 less than a male doctor. How do we justify that?

I worry about the anti-intellectualism in this country. My grandfather was a coal miner who worked a second job hanging wallpaper to try to send his two kids to Marywood University and the University of Scranton. My grandmother dreamed that they would be better educated and have better jobs and nicer homes. Their wore neckties and white gloves and admired people with culture and intellect and great achievements.

I worry a lot about the Great Divide. When did we go from a two party political system to a free-for-all of hate and invective? There were policy divides before, but politicians did work together for the common good. That has gone out of the window. Now we are blue or red, when we should all be red, white and blue.

And yet. And yet.

We have come so far. Although I go through periods of frustration, even depression, when we are engaged in racial incidents or demeaning political debates, when the world around us seems to be more violent than ever, eventually I sit back and realize what is good about the world.

At the turn of the 20th century, millions across the world died from flu. Toward the end of the last century, millions died of AIDS. Today’s medical scientists have tackled every disease, some with more success than others, but the hope is always there for the cure for cancer or ALS or the new Zika virus.

When I was an impressionable teenager, the Civil Rights movement was in full swing, and it was tragic how many people died in the struggle. Black men were lynched. Black children were bombed in churches. White Freedom Riders were murdered. Racism seems more rampant than ever, but in truth, things did get better, and we have to keep up the fight for racial equality.

Women are still not getting equal pay, but I remember my mother explaining to me that the only career options for her back in the late 40s and early 50s were teaching, nursing, or secretarial work. Female physicians still don’t get paid as much, but there are many more in that field than 30 years ago when one of my best friends went to medical school. She was the only female student there, and she was forced to sign a paper saying she would not become a surgeon before taking her surgical residency. Her residency consisted of cleaning up equipment while the men got to observe and perform surgery. Need I point out that today, as I write this, a woman is running for President? Win or lose, that is a glass ceiling broken forever.

When I went away to college, I met the first Jewish person I’d ever known, and the first black person. I grew up Irish Catholic in a hugely WASP middle class neighborhood. It took me 17 years to meet somebody who didn’t look like me.

Try to remember that our entire history has been a struggle and that we are still a great nation seeking to become greater.  

I have written this article this month to try to put things into some kind of perspective, because everyone now has three full months to figure out one of the biggest decisions you will make in the year 2016. Do as I ask. Become truly informed about both sides. It isn’t easy. There are blaring headlines and “breaking news” and false information to weed through. Take the time to do the weeding. And then we can all plant the seeds for our future.

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