Today is Monday, and as I sit by my fire and write this commentary I am reminded of what it means to be part of a family. Not just a family of blood relatives, but one that includes old friends, new friends and acquaintances that we meet along the way. That is what the American Spirit is all about, people helping others, smiling, sharing and giving of themselves to make it a better world for everyone.
We have people suffering along the coasts of New Jersey and New York due to the recent hurricane, and there are millions who are without heat, electricity, running water and who have lost everything. Whether this recent disaster is a result of global warming or some other atmospheric anomaly, it is a disaster nonetheless.
We still have our soldiers being injured and dying from the war in Afghanistan and those who will never return from Iraq. The unemployment lines are still long, children are going to school hungry and people are still losing their jobs. All the while, our elected officials are bickering and clamoring for power, laying blame and resisting responsibility.
It is my hope that the vitriolic rhetoric that has been so much a part of these last four years, and especially during the presidential campaign, will be put aside and our elected officials can work across party lines to get our country moving in the direction of prosperity. I believe there is room for everyone at the "table" and that there can be compromise. But for this to happen, there must be a time for healing, patience and understanding.
Not unlike a family that has been divided by envy and discord, our country has been divided by partisanship and an unwillingness to see the other's point of view, regardless of who is right or wrong. Take the Congress, for instance.
On CBS's "60 Minutes" last evening, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell sat down with Steve Kroft. Kroft asked the two senators if they believed there could be any common ground between the two parties. As usual, while they both said that is what they were seeking, neither agreed to work toward such an elusive alliance. Rather, they continued to say how difficult these last four years have been, and that while their party was willing to work with the other, the other was just not being cooperative and was unwilling to compromise. Kroft reported that this interview has been named "exasperating" by CBS, and while both continued to refer to the other as "my good friend" it didn't appear to be genuine, and it was "very chilly." I believe it is up to "we the people" to see that this attitude does not continue.
In previous columns I have suggested that individuals become involved in shaping our policies by letting their elected officials know what they want and what they expect from them - the time to do that is now, and if we are to see our country move forward we must get involved. Whether or not your preferred candidate won or lost, we must all put our personal political views behind us and get involved. I often find myself being reminded that I am not getting any younger, and the days keep ticking away - I need to act while I can to make things better - and so do each of you who are reading this column. No more angry words, no more hate and blame, no more heels dug in. We need to find common ground to solve the country's problems, and that will take standing still, but not being rigid; breathing, but breathing slowly; speaking with clarity, but not shouting; and above all, listening.
Our country needs us - let's find a way to work together to make it happen. We need to tell Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid that we won't stand for anything like what has happened the last four years. I pray that this will be what guides us through tomorrow's election and beyond - whoever is sitting in the Oval Office.
Today is Wednesday as you read this. The election is over. You are either happy or sad, but you are still part of a family. A family not necessarily connected by blood, but a family made up by more than old friends, new friends or mere acquaintances; you are a part of the American family - people helping others, smiling, sharing and giving of themselves to make it a better world for everyone. Let that be the mantra that guides us through tomorrow.
Have a great day!
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident and author. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org