The asphalt-melting heat of summer has not set in yet, but we know it’s coming. Because of the mild winter, we are also expecting an overabundance of mosquitoes, red bugs, tomato worms, fleas, and Lord knows what else.
Along with these natural tribulations, we are in for a season of heated political rhetoric as the Presidential race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama runs its summer course. Both the candidates and their constituencies are painting the November election as the most important one in a century or more. The future of the nation is on the line, they say. Because the stakes are so high, an elevated level of acrimony and mean-spiritedness is saturating the atmosphere already. If you do not believe me, just listen to the Neal Boortz radio show for a few minutes, and you will. Of course, in America, freedom of expression is a basic right. We can say what we want in this country, but let us not be naive about the long-term damage extreme speech can do. Once words are spoken, they cannot be taken back.
During the loud, long summer that is ahead, let’s do all we can to elect the candidate we believe in, but let’s watch our language. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that, whether we are Democrats, Republicans or Independents, we are still Americans together. Let’s not demonize anybody, even those with whom we deeply disagree. Let’s not rip apart the fabric of the democracy that holds us together. One Civil War is enough.
It seems long ago and far away now, but I remember vividly how each school day began in my elementary school. At 8:10, the bell would ring. That was the children’s signal to line up in an orderly fashion, class by class, on the playground, facing Miss Jimmie Land, our principal, who in another life would have made a great Marine Corps Commandant. The first order of the day was the raising of the flag by two impressively serious sixth graders, as the rest of us sang the National Anthem. Afterwards, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance with our hands over our hearts. Then, Miss Land would have an encouraging word to say about the day ahead and how we were to be responsible in it.
I feel responsible for America’s future. I hope you do too. That would really please Miss Jimmie Land.