I am a person who believes the election of President Donald J. Trump is a tragic blow to American moral leadership around the world, and a serious threat to the future of our representative democracy.
My lifelong friend — whom I love, admire and respect in so many ways — strongly disagrees with me. He sees Donald J. Trump’s election as a blow against “politics as usual” and as an effort to return the nation to the “roots that made it great.”
Caught very personally in the great divide of the culture wars and estranged by radically different views about what is best for the nation we both love, my friend and I struggle to figure out what has happened.
We have known each other most of our lives. We have eaten at the same table, gone to the same church, attended the same school, worked together in the same efforts to enhance our community, donated to the same charities, laughed at the same jokes and cried at the same funerals.
While our views may differ on politics, I know my friend will always “be there” for me. If I am in a financial pinch, he will loan me some money. If I end up in jail, he will be there with the bail and will explain to the police why I am innocent. If my cat gets lost, he will help me track it down, even though he is a “dog person.” If my roof falls in, he will be there in a few minutes with a ladder and some plastic tarps.
And, my friend knows I will do the same for him, without a second thought, any time.
It seems, on the basis of our hearts alone, we could talk about the national drama we call politics. Still, we mostly don’t. Some unwritten law — or maybe the fear of some clause in our relationship — precludes civil discussion. Maybe friendships of the heart are all too fragile to withstand honesty and the sharing of minds.
Open discussion does come with risk.
Yet, silence also comes with risk.
Shouldn’t both my friend and I work on doing what national leaders in both political parties have failed so miserably to accomplish: civil discourse? Shouldn’t we try to step above the demeaning and angry rhetoric of campaign rallies and political debates and speak to each other about the future of the country we love?
The current political environment may not make this “across the divide” discussion easy. We both have been infected by the vitriol, propaganda and code words that pour out of our televisions and computers. But, if we are part of a “government of the people” as we have been taught, isn’t such an effort a patriotic duty?
Can honest, civil discussion between friends be the solution to our national trauma? Can the solution to the great national divide be found right here in Columbus, Hope, Clifford, Edinburgh, Jonesville, Taylorsville and all points in between, rather than just in Washington, D.C.?
When all else fails, why not shut off the TV and have civil one-on-one discussions between friends? It’s a novel idea, but it is worth a try.
Bud Herron is a retired editor and newspaper publisher who lives in Columbus. He served as publisher of The Republic from 1998 to 2007.