Dar­ing to imag­ine the ‘what if ’

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Opinion - By An­n­Marie McLeod An­n­Marie McLeod is a res­i­dent of Dan­bury.

2018 churned with po­lit­i­cal and so­cial con­tro­ver­sies, tragic vi­o­lence, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and es­ca­lat­ing anger. Bru­tal so­cial me­dia ex­changes, sex­ual as­sault charges and im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies height­ened ten­sions and dom­i­nated pub­lic dis­course. All of it high­lighted crit­i­cal ques­tions re­lated to U.S. cul­ture and gov­ern­ment, to un­der­stand­ings of what is fair and just, and to how free­dom and equal­ity are de­fined in 21st cen­tury Amer­ica. Most of all, 2018 demon­strated that hu­man frailty and lim­i­ta­tions dis­tort the ideals and hopes wrapped into the words, “We the peo­ple of these United States ...”

And so 2018 in­vites con­sid­er­a­tion of what 2019 could look like for Amer­ica. What if in­di­vid­u­als de­cided to em­brace Rosa Parks’ rea­son­ing that we are meant to be role mod­els for one an­other? What if we were able to think about the weight of that con­cept, to con­sider that each of us has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to the oth­ers? Sup­pose in­di­vid­u­als trusted the idea that ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion in so­ci­ety is es­sen­tial for the suc­cess of the whole. How could that change lives? How could it re­de­fine per­sonal choices and pub­lic di­rec­tion?

What if our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers dared to em­brace ci­vil­ity in dis­course? What if the name-call­ing and la­bel­ing, ac­cu­sa­tions and blame-plac­ing was dropped in fa­vor of se­ri­ous ex­am­i­na­tion of the real is­sues fac­ing Amer­i­can so­ci­ety? It would re­quire in­tel­lec­tual strength and emo­tional courage to set aside the ex­plo­sive rhetoric of the past. It would chal­lenge both politi­cians and con­stituents to em­brace new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for per­sonal and pub­lic in­ter­ac­tions. That alone has a mul­ti­tude of pos­si­bil­i­ties.

What if wrestling with prob­lem-solv­ing be­came the mantra of Congress and power pol­i­tics of both par­ties yielded to a clear and deep sense of the col­lec­tive good? Talk about prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions? Truly col­lab­o­rate with one an­other? Could com­pro­mise ac­tu­ally be­come part of pub­lic life in sig­nif­i­cant and mean­ing­ful ways?

“We, the peo­ple of these United States ...” are the words that ac­tu­ally knit our multi-eth­nic and racial so­ci­ety into one rest­less whole. What if those words were heard and heeded? Could di­vi­sive rhetoric yield to new lev­els of mu­tual ap­pre­ci­a­tion for one an­other? Would it be pos­si­ble to hear and learn one an­other’s sto­ries and dis­cover em­pa­thy for the suf­fer­ing that marks ev­ery hu­man jour­ney? Would it be pos­si­ble to see one an­other as com­pan­ions in a rapidly chang­ing so­ci­ety rather than as threats to each other?

We are a so­ci­ety of dream­ers. From the Found­ing Fa­thers to imag­i­na­tion en­thu­si­asts like Ein­stein and Dis­ney, ev­ery facet of Amer­i­can life has been marked by those who could see what was and en­vi­sion some­thing more, some­thing bet­ter.

Voices like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. have called us to look at who we are and where we could be as op­posed to where we are. It is 2019. It is time to dare to choose to be dif­fer­ent, to be bet­ter. Af­ter all, we are the peo­ple.


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