The holiday season is a festive one in which we take joy in the love of friends and family and a time when we look forward to the possibilities that the New Year might bring. The brightly colored red and green poinsettia plant has come to be associated with the holidays and, thus, is now viewed as an emblem of peace in a troubled world. Today, our holidays are filled with these beautiful plants whose cheerful countenances brighten our private and public spaces.
As the inevitable storms of winter and Washington's politics approach, let us keep the image of peace and hope in mind and reflect on what the future might hold for our nation.
This year's presidential election was like no other in our nation's history. It's probably what this year will be remembered most for and what will impact us the most in the coming year. Its endless campaign had results that surprised everyone, including the winner. It made history on many counts, two of which were that for the first time a highly accomplished and qualified woman became a major party nominee and for the first time a businessman, someone who had never held any political office, became president.
The results were astonishing, not only because of who won, but also because the winner received fewer popular votes than did the loser. Further astounding us is the perception that, as one pundit termed it, a Russian president "voted" in our election.
The results also highlighted the many great divides that exist in our nation: Red vs blue, urban vs rural, coastal vs inland, conservative vs liberal, and haves vs have-nots. Then there are the battles of gender, race, religion, and culture. How many more reasons can we find to divide us?
As 2017 approaches, we remain divided with just under half the population feeling elated and just over half feeling miserable. Already, political battle lines are being drawn (which would be happening regardless of which party won), and new strategies are being devised to push agendas for this president's term and for future elections.
Despite the millions of cracks in the proverbial glass ceiling the female presidential candidate effected, there have also been a fraying in the unique and guiding philosophy that has served our country so well: E Pluribus Unum, "Out of Many, One."
These micro-tears in the warp and woof of our nation's fabric weaken the faith that we place in our institutions to guarantee equality under the law, and diminish the civility of our public discourse--one of the great pillars of our system of government. Moreover, it has always been that our diversity and our differences counted among our greatest strengths. At the same time, these micro-tears convey an urgent need for healing, for being willing to reach out in good faith, and to negotiate and compromise so that everyone comes away with something of value in the bargain. Mutual gains earned from interacting with a sense of mutual respect builds trust for all parties involved and bodes well for progress.
On the other hand, engaging in the magical thinking of wishing that problematic people (at either end of the economic and political spectrum) would go away is childish. These challenges involve hard work, performed by mature adults, and they require that we focus on improving our communication, listening, and negotiation skills.
To become united again as a nation, and therefore stronger and more enduring, we must not only stand together for what we believe in, but also, we must become willing to understand the needs, plights, and opinions of others who don't think or look like we do but who may be our neighbors, customers, care providers, supervisors, landlords, protectors, and teachers nonetheless.
Demographers tell us that after the year 2050, our nation will no longer be majority White, but mostly Brown. There are no magic wands with which we can whisk away this fact. Yet, even then, one constant will remain: That is, as it has always been in our great nation, each person will bring a variety of backgrounds, experiences, skills, and strengths--and love of country.
If we are fortunate, liberty will remain a watchword and devotion to liberty the one trait that sets us apart from every other nation on earth. But liberty also means accepting others who think different and, within the rule of law, of valuing individual freedoms above all.
Deprived of the sun's chlorophyl, it's in darkness that the poinsettia transforms its leaves to crimson. Similarly, possibilities for peace and progress can take root even when hope seems dim. For the coming year we are aware that we have much to lose, but we are also heartened by knowing that we have much to gain when we unite as "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."
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