We are at a crossroad. The choice is ours.
Someone told me a long time ago that we all have a choice in the morning when we wake up and put our feet on the floor. We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be sad. That choice has gotten harder these days, but my innate optimism and belief in our nation and humanity allows me to choose to look for the positives.
First and foremost, I believe that the fundamental institutions and underpinnings of our democracy have withstood the most trying of circumstances since the Civil War. We had a contested presidential election, the votes for which have been counted, recounted, audited and certified. The objectors had their opportunity to have their contentions adjudicated in the courts.
Having failed to prevail within constitutional means, some undertook an assault on the Capitol and in the process caused needless and unconscionable death and destruction. But, ultimately, it resulted in nothing more than a delay in the proceedings. It is unclear what more could happen between now and Inauguration Day, but I am confident that the institutions of our Republic will prevail and we will start anew at noon on January 20th.
The real question for me is “where do we go from here?” I believe that the fundamental challenge we face as a nation is the continued descent into a house divided against itself, not unlike that which Abraham Lincoln described in 1858. We have allowed extremists and extremism to dominate our discourse, and devolved into a frame of mind that is intolerant of differing views. Freedom of speech is one of the most precious principles of our nation, and one of the most underappreciated. But individually and collectively, we have to find a way to filter fact from fiction, and opinion from objective reporting.
There are roughly 330 million Americans of all shapes, sizes, and colors. We are a diverse nation in many ways, but I believe that the overwhelming majority share the desire to live a peaceful life, with food, shelter and the love of our families and good friends our priorities. The great mass of Americans are reasonable people, willing to compromise, desirous of a nonviolent coexistence. We cannot let extreme views, both left and right, dominate and drive our lives.
A democracy is only as good as the participation of its citizens. We have to find ways to embrace our differences and appreciate the strength that derives from those differences. We have to find ways to elect leaders that eschew partisan politics driven by the urge for power, who instead work together to solve problems and create a better future. We have to find ways to sort through the onslaught of information and opinions that assault us through the airwaves and over the internet.
I say “we” because this is on us. We can’t blame the leaders we elect, or the media we digest, or the institutions we’ve created. In a democracy we have choice. And just like getting up in the morning and choosing to be happy, we can get up in the morning and choose to make change.
Let’s choose to change from a nation that focuses on its differences and let’s choose to find common ground. Let’s choose to change from a citizenry that amplifies the voices of extremism, and focus our attention on those who provide common sense solutions. Let’s choose to create a world that we can be proud to pass along to the generations of Americans yet to come.
Michael Rauh is the president and CEO of Chelsea Groton Bank. Last year he was honored as the Citizen of the Year by the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce. Rauh formerly served on The Day Board of Directors. He lives in Mystic.
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