It’s time to move forward.
Last Christmas, as I spent time with my family, I reflected on what the negative rhetoric in politics has done to our younger generations and the effect it would have if it continues. In the world of Twitter, Facebook, and round-the-clock media coverage, it can be overwhelming for young people who are still developing their own views and learning about the world they live in.
And sadly, it seems the negative rhetoric is only getting worse. The anger, violence, and across the board intolerance is setting a dangerous precedent for our democracy and our country — and our children are watching. They see and hear the constant barrage of vitriolic language on social media, on protest posters and signs, on national television — and it’s rapidly moving into the classrooms.
The negative rhetoric that surrounded the 2016 Presidential cycle was brutal, and deeply troubling. The press was so sure that Candidate Trump would not win, that the story it focused on most was whether or not he would accept his defeat. By continuously asking that question, and by most of the election coverage, the media failed to prepare half the country for today’s reality: President Trump.
Since the election, thousands of Americans have used the hashtag #NotMyPresident and others have gone so far as to file for recounts in multiple states. The President himself is asking for an outside group, and now Congress, to investigate how many illegal voters cost him the popular vote. It’s all ridiculous, but worse, it is damaging to our democracy. Frankly, we have more important issues to focus on than the ‘what ifs’ of an election that ended three months ago. Anyone who has not accepted the result is doing more harm than good.
Failing to move forward is failing our country, and our future. We must find a way to disagree without being disagreeable — and condemn those who would voice their dissent by lighting cars on fire, damaging storefronts, looting businesses, and throwing rocks at our law enforcement officers. The right to peaceful protests is one of the pillars of democracy; starting a riot because you don’t like something is destructive, dangerous and counterproductive. We need to use this freedom of speech our Founders fought for wisely, with purpose and decency. We need civility, from both the angry mobs and the President himself. It is time to move forward.
Americans have reason to be optimistic. Right now, we have an opportunity to renew America’s leadership in a world consumed by chaos. And we have an opportunity to restore the economic growth, infrastructure, and jobs our communities desperately need. But if we are to achieve these goals and maintain our freedoms, we need to respect our institutions, the principles upon which our nation was founded, and — most importantly — each other. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “the struggle for today is not altogether for today — it is for a vast future also.”
Our future generations deserve better than what we’ve demonstrated lately, and it is our responsibility to show them what makes America the greatest country on Earth. Let’s rise to the occasion.
This op-ed was originally published in the Rockford Register Star on February 17, 2017: http://www.rrstar.com/opinion/20170216/my-view-its-time-for-us-to-move-forward