The power of unity

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Feb 02, 2017

The day after the inauguration, we went to Augusta to take part in the women's march there. It was the first time in decades I'd been to a social action event. It was seasonably cold – in the mid- to upper 30s, I think – but a large crowd turned out to gather in the plaza between the Burton Cross office building and the Statehouse.

I was heartened to see people of all ages, including many young children with their parents. This was not a hippie event or a millennial event, but an all-inclusive event. For the time we were there, the atmosphere was excited, friendly and peaceful. Maureen and I agreed it was good to be with a sizable number of others who oppose the self-aggrandizement, corruption and bigotry that characterize the new president and his administration. We all were there not so much because we couldn't stand the fact that our candidate lost, as because we believe we – and all of our fellow citizens – deserve a government that puts the people first, especially those least able to help themselves.

We deserve a world with clean air and water; with abundant, renewable energy; with jobs that offer not only good wages, but decent working conditions and benefits; where good medical care is an unquestioned right of every person, public education is both excellent and affordable, and the elderly live out their years in security, not forced to choose between food and medicine, nor obliged to work at Wal-Mart to make ends meet.

When I say we deserve it, I do not mean we are entitled to it. More like creating such a world for ourselves and future generations is what we should expect of ourselves. We should give ourselves our best.

This not a utopian vision: it is a reality in many other countries. But it requires us to give up our attachment to the notion of a zero-sum game, i.e., I cannot win unless you lose. We must come to see that when we help others, it benefits us, too, in a concrete way. When we help others get an education, they have more to add to society. When we help others get basic medical care, it costs less than if they wait until they need emergency treatment. When we give others decent unemployment benefits, it means they can continue to support their families, which benefits the economy we all share. In short, investing in our fellow citizens – in a humane and caring society – is investing in security and prosperity for ourselves.

A case in point is the increased acceptance of gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. people and the corresponding growth in civil rights for these minorities. Who would have imagined, even a decade ago, that businesses would lobby against state laws that discriminate against LGBT people, both because they view these groups as valuable potential customers, and because they understand that LGBT people have straight family members who love them? And not only lobby against the laws, but also boycott states that pass, or attempt to pass them! This is an example of how doing the right thing pays off in very practical terms.

So let's start working for the good of everybody, from the bottom up. Let's worry less about who is deserving or who is gaming the system and more about the millions of our fellow citizens who need help, and will not receive it if this president and his party have their way. Some of them are my family and friends, and I'll bet some of them are yours, as well.

Let's be less concerned with making sure everyone else lives by our rules and more concerned with following our own better angels.

The power of the administration in Washington, D.C., is the power of divide and conquer. The power we marched for in Augusta – and across this country and around the world – is the power of unity.

My faith is in unity.

Addendum: This column was written before the president's order banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries was issued. Since seeing the outpouring of protest over the order, I have concluded that the president will, indeed, "Make America Great Again," or rather, he will cause Americans to demonstrate the greatness already within them. Those protests, and all the other acts of resistance to his administration, are the surest sign of American greatness in many years. So, thank you, President Trump, for inspiring Americans to stand up for the values that really make our country great.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.