Five years after founding The Gratitude Campaign, I've received over 10,500 e-mails, and 1,500 comments on YouTube. It seems that there is a lot to talk about with regard to gratitude for those who serve; not the least of which is the ever present challenge of understanding how to keep the politics out of it. Hopefully this blog will give us an opportunity for some rational, reasonable, and respectful discussion. I hope you'll join us...
As I sat drinking coffee with my wife this morning, I was perusing Facebook and I came across two very interesting, opposing posts:
First, I noticed a post with an image of Abraham Lincoln.It quoted him as saying:
“America will never be destroyed from the outside.If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
I then came across another post with an image of President Obama pointing off camera.The quote read:
“See that guy over there holding my golf clubs?There’s a job I created.”
The subsequent comments to that post then got into a heated partisan political debate, with a lot of finger pointing as to whose fault our current political and economic climate is – the “libs” or conservatives; Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama; the Democrats or Republicans in Congress.The vast majority of the debate was about bashing specific people or groups of people, not on the merits of any particular idea or legislation itself.
I’ve said many times before that our campaign is not about politics, and I hold to that statement.Having said that, that doesn’t mean that we never discuss politics in general, theoretical terms.What it means is that we do not get into partisan political debates, we don’t choose sides, and we don’t place a value judgment on anyone’s right to their own opinion.
After reading this debate on Facebook, I was reminded of the Abraham Lincoln quote I’d just read, and of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Inherit the Wind (1960; Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly).The movie is based on the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 wherein teacher John Scopes (Bert Cates in the movie) was charged with unlawfully teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in a public school.
There is a scene in the movie wherein Bert’s girlfriend Rachel, who had just testified in the case, goes to the prosecuting attorney Matthew Harrison Brady’s hotel to confront him for twisting her testimony in his favor.She has a conversation with Brady’s wife, Sarah:
Rachel:I want the whole world to know that Matthew Harrison Brady is a fake!…If he could do such an evil thing then he must be an evil man.And everything he stands for must be evil, too!
Sarah:Oh, stop it, stop it!Youth can be so pure.What do you know of good or evil?What do you understand of the sum of a man’s life?…You see my husband as a saint – and he must be right in everything that he says and does.And then you see him as a devil, and everything he says and does must be wrong.Well, my husband’s neither a saint nor a devil.He’s just a human being.And he makes mistakes.
Rachel:How can you defend him?
Sarah:It’s not he I’m defending!I’m defending the 40 years I’ve lived with this man and watched him carry the burdens of people like you.If he’s been wrong at least he’s stood for something.What do you stand for?
Is this not the current state of our political climate?People, dissatisfied with their own lives, wanting someone to blame?Someone to point their finger at and say, “It’s HIS fault,” or “it’s THEIR fault”?Not debating concepts, ideas, or legislation, but rather attacking the person or party presenting the idea and deciding that the idea is good or evil simply based on whether they see the person or party presenting it as “saint” or “devil”?And if this increasingly polarized, partisan debate continues how will anyone, from any party, ever be able to get anything accomplished in Washington?The polarized debate creates a climate where neither party can accomplish anything without the other stalling their efforts.And thus, the accusations of “it’s the other sides fault” are a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The title of the movie comes from the bible verse, Proverbs 11:29:“He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind; and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.”
This polarized debate starts with us – with what we discuss amongst ourselves in restaurants, schools, churches, and even online, and what we choose to follow (and fund) in the media.I’d like to encourage us all to be a little more “wise of heart”, and to learn to debate thoughts, ideas, and legislation as opposed to people and parties… lest we do as Lincoln cautioned us not to:troubleth our own house, and inherit the wind.