Christmas is the season we approach with gratitude, forgiveness, and joy for the many blessings in our lives. Then, we ice the cake with the hope and promise of a new beginning, a new year with opportunities to pursue our dreams. This year, 2016, leaves many of us with good reason to appreciate the approaching season of renewal.
The recent election cycle reminded me of days long ago when the teacher stepped out of the classroom and the mischief began, then abruptly ended when the teacher returned. Despite the temporary deviance from good behavior, all grew up to be good citizens. Despite the emotional outbursts of temper and anxiety during this prolonged election year, we will return to being good citizens. We have too much to gain and too much to lose to do otherwise.
Think of all those places where people cannot reconcile their differences. They fall into violent civil conflict. Services fail: water, sewage, trash removal, medical care, schools close, the economy falters, homes and business are destroyed, and hopes and dreams are shattered.
We can distinguish one woman from another woman. We can distinguish one man from another man. The fact that we can make those distinctions indicates that we are all different, different enough to be recognizable. Differences do not prevent cooperation. Despite our many differences, we cooperate to build roads, schools, hospitals, business enterprises, religious institutions, government, and much more.
The American political pendulum swings back and forth. We try something and, if it doesn’t work, we try something else. Although the process can be painfully slow, we do make progress. We once had slavery; we abolished it. We once had child labor but eventually outlawed that practice. Originally, women could not vote, but women demanded and gained voting rights. Our constitution, great as it may be, was not perfect out of the starting gate; we have amended it 27 times to improve it. American democracy comes equipped with a repair kit: elections, referendums, judicial processes, and freedom of assembly, speech, and press.
There are 195 countries in the world. Would you advise your children or grandchildren to move to any of them to obtain better opportunities and a better life than offered by the United States? I am optimistic about America’s future.
Jack Stevenson is now retired from military service. He served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA).