Seek com­mon ground and avoid divi­sion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - — Erie Times, The As­so­ci­ated Press

We know what we Amer­i­cans, to­gether, are ca­pa­ble of.

We see the unity, self­less­ness and com­pas­sion after every nat­u­ral dis­as­ter — vol­un­teers tex­ting do­na­tions to dis­placed strangers; la­bor­ers jump­ing in trucks to ferry sup­plies to those in need, re­gard­less of tribe.

We’ve wit­nessed it in his­toric sac­ri­fices made when our na­tion or trusted al­lies have come un­der at­tack.

The great­ness also flows in re­sponse to de­plorable acts of vi­o­lence and hate — most re­cently the mas­sacre of Jewish wor­ship­pers at the Tree of Life syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh.

Eleven peo­ple were fa­tally shot and six oth­ers, in­clud­ing four po­lice of­fi­cers, were in­jured by a man au­thor­i­ties said wanted “all Jews to die.”

Pitts­burgh, a tough, tol­er­ant, sto­ried Amer­i­can city, ral­lied with in­ter­faith re­mem­brances. Mus­lims and Chris­tians prayed, con­soled and launched fundrais­ing ef­forts that gar­nered hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for those af­fected.

City and state lead­ers, leg­endary sports fran­chises, me­dia out­lets and other com­mu­nity pil­lars pre­sented a uni­fied front.

There were tears and sad­ness, but also deadly se­ri­ous, un­com­pro­mis­ing ex­pres­sions of the core val­ues that make our great Amer­i­can ex­per­i­ment pos­si­ble.

That is, the right to be free to be who we are, in thought, word and deed, be­cause re­gard­less of our many and deep dif­fer­ences, we share some­thing es­sen­tial — hu­man­ity.

As Rabbi Mark Asher Good­man of Erie’s Brith Sholom said in prepa­ra­tion for an in­ter­faith ob­ser­vance, “an at­tack on one Amer­i­can is an at­tack on all of us. That’s the best our coun­try is.”

We must find a way to abide in that mind­set with­out be­ing forced there by tragedy.

The poi­sonous spirit an­i­mat­ing our pol­i­tics de­grades and dis­hon­ors the ties that bind this wildly di­verse union — bonds we forged through great in­sight, will and also, blood­shed.

Po­lit­i­cal strate­gies that fan hate, divi­sion and fear have been de­ployed to great ef­fect. We have seen it on the na­tional stage and fil­tered down into lo­cal hearts and minds, ex­em­pli­fied in fevered let­ters to the edi­tor that de­pict po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents as mur­der­ers or traitors.

As we move for­ward from these midterms, we urge greater care, ci­vil­ity and re­spect from cit­i­zens and lead­ers alike.

Seek out dif­fer­ing view­points from out­lets across the spec­trum. If you hear some­thing that seems tai­lor-made to in­spire out­rage, chances are it was. Factcheck it.

Ap­peals for unity some­times come off as nam­by­pamby. Po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences — at their core strug­gles over power and prin­ci­ple — some­times re­quire real strug­gle.

But em­brac­ing de­hu­man­iza­tion, not per­sua­sion or com­pro­mise, as a path to tri­umph car­ries too high a price.

It sul­lies our na­tional char­ac­ter, cor­rodes re­la­tion­ships and, at its worst, le­git­i­mates vi­o­lence against neigh­bors we are called on, as one sign dis­played in Pitts­burgh re­minded us, to love with­out ex­cep­tion.

As we move for­ward from these midterms, we urge greater care, ci­vil­ity and re­spect from cit­i­zens and lead­ers alike. Seek out dif­fer­ing view­points from out­lets across the spec­trum. If you hear some­thing that seems tai­lor-made to in­spire out­rage, chances are it was. Factcheck it.

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