Memorial Day Weekend is a somber celebration of sacrifice. The Vice President is facing a justifiable public relations backlash from tweeting “enjoy the long weekend” with no mention of the holiday we are observing.
Locally the Chronicle’s Courtney Stewart wrote an excellent piece this morning about Memorial Day being a reminder of the greater importance to stay united even in the face of disagreement which we can all learn to do a little better. I’m going to echo that sentiment today with some addendums.
We build our community and our country on two competing types of land. These are battlegrounds and common ground. Both are necessary. The purpose of this piece is not to argue that we should fight less or back away from digging our heels in on issues that matter to us.
It is to challenge us all to do a little better to recognize that common ground still exists even in the midst of a battle.
The best way we can do that is to remember a third type of land that built this country. That’s hallowed ground. I’m writing this from St. Augustine, a city a couple hundred years older than America itself, but one that embodies that American spirit of exploration, determination and tradition.
Last night as my wife and I strolled King Street, we passed St. Augustine City Hall which had hundreds of American flags planted between the building and the sidewalk. As we neared, it became clear that each flag had a name attached to the top, undoubtedly representing someone who had lost his or her life in service to our country. Red, white and blue blanked the sea of green grass on which it was planted. Hundreds.
It’s a powerful reminder that freedom is preserved at great cost, but that it requires winning the war abroad and navigating our battles at home. This is not the lowest point in our nation’s history for political discourse. Anyone who tells you otherwise is being ignorant or disingenuous of American history.
We are following a concerning trend though. People are tired, and what’s worse, is they can’t quite figure out why. This fatigue usually causes the average news consumer to do one of two things.
They will either shut it all out missing important information that could help drive future decision-making or they will turn to a sole source of news which may or may not provide enough context to allow the person to think critically.
They are tired because the two outcomes of conflict resolution in public affairs have been presented as moderation or elimination. Moderation has been discussed in previous columns so let’s focus on the latter.
People who practice elimination believe that to win is to succeed at forcing the other off the playing field. This is why critics of our public forum for the marketplace of ideas, which used to be newspapers but has now been dominated by social media, are rightfully concerned over the inconsistency with which tech companies ban accounts.
This practice, however, is really just more of the same from what we’ve seen from media regardless of digital or print. Chronicle publisher Gerry Mulligan’s commentary this morning recounted the numerous advocacy efforts the paper has undergone throughout the years. This is most likely as much of a signal to the Chronicle’s new owners of all the good the paper can do as it is a trip down memory lane with some notable highlights already in 2021.
To be clear, the paper does do a lot of good. However, it sometimes overreaches to a form of elimination.
This type of elimination is not outright censorship through the banning of your online account but rather an agenda setting social direction that establishes the standard with what a person must agree with wholly to be considered a good citizen. This is a subtle way of drawing battle lines while posing as establishing common ground.
The editorial board is uninterested in debate. They want agreement.
The Concurrent celebrates an open forum for discussion regardless of your stance on an issue.
We are not looking for agreement nor are we looking for a fight.
We do think through recognition of the battle grounds, through reconciliation on the common grounds and through reverence of the hallowed grounds, we can open discussion in this county and might come to find something that has been lost along the way: respect.
Thank you to all those who gave their lives in service to our nation.