Insurrection—A Southerner’s Perspective:
A Year Gone By
By Mickey Dunaway
Yesterday morning I listened to President Biden’s address to the country on the anniversary of January 6, 2021. Frankly, I don’t listen to most presidential speeches regardless of the Party in power. I tend to be “an up from the bootstraps” kind of guy who has never really seen that any President has made a lot of difference in my family’s lives. I have been married for 53+ years. I have been responsible for my children for 48 and 44 years of my married life. Our lives have been determined by mostly conscious decisions that my wife and I have made collaboratively or individually with the family mores, values, and standards that ran through our family, influencing individual choices. We have lived a complicated and generally comfortable life. Ups and downs have happened as they do to everyone, but our family standards have produced our ups and solved most of our downs.
To The Point of the Title: Yes, I agree with President Biden that it is a date, in the words of FDR, that “should live in infamy.” Sure, he was being political, but that does not mean he was disingenuous or wrong.
There were a few things he said on which I would disagree, but there are many more things on which I reasonably agree. Regardless of your political leanings, I hope you found some areas of agreement, too. If not, going forward, you are likely going be caught amid a-sad-groundhog-day-sort-of-existence bound to repeat the type of tired and empty (and scary to me) rhetoric that symbolizes the far-far right and the far-far left.
Today, President Joe Biden mostly made good commonsense. Where I disagreed, I could, as a reasonably intelligent American, see and understand his points. Let me put it another way—the way that happens to be why I have never worried much about decisions made in Washington. You see, I am a conservative. A most-of-the-time-Republican. But I also have a bunch of ideas that middle-of-the-road Democrats would find reasonable. Sometimes I am downright Libertarian. My wife would say, “Don’t forget to add that you are also a member of the Contrarian party, too!”
I have two points about finding multiple ideologies in our own moral code: (1) My profession as an educator of more than 50 years demanded compassion and caring for everyone. My boss, Dr. Paul Fanning, frequently reminded us that in Alexander City Schools, we educated ALL children. He firmly and often told us that we made no distinction between the children of pulpwooders and Russell Corporation executives. Oh my! He was just so right. The eloquence of a fellow Southerner who talked even slower than I do. (2) For those so unbending in their ideologies that they cannot see the logic of another human being’s argument or empathize with their conditions, you, my friends, live in a sad, sad, sad world. And all I can offer you is pity, for I cannot understand you because you do not seek to understand me and my fellow humans who are not like you.
Our country is and always has been—at least as I see it from my perspective of 75 years—a country where the commonalities of commonsense prevail where the idiocy of unbending ideology does not.
I have some good neighbors and friends where I live—not from God’s Country as they are Yankees and Midwesterners! I talk with them frequently. Some are on the far right, some are on the far left, and most are in the middle. There are many things on which we disagree. Still, there are enough things on which we agree that we can have civil conversations on almost any topic without resorting to counterfeit agreements to continue our discussions. Counterfeit agreement occurs when we nod and say “uh-huh” but don’t really mean it. Using these imitation agreements when in the company of people with whom we disagree is about as disingenuous as a person can be. It is perhaps most dishonest because we abandon our most closely held beliefs. And we don’t know how to use commonsense to find those small commonalities to build relationships and conversations. You know what I am talking about. It is the same as when you tell your wife her outfit “looks fine.” As a man, that is a compliment; however, you might have been a bit more understanding that to every woman I have known, that is a conversation stopper.
As Americans, we must recognize that commonsense is the intellectual commodity most lacking in our multi-cultured country today. For most of America’s existence, this most precious of human conditions has been a hallmark. We indeed have abandoned it at the expense of Native Americans, African slaves and their descendants, and of Native-Hawaiian and other Polynesian peoples whose lands we appropriated. But commonsense always and eventually prevailed. Even if imperfectly, we brought the country back to its proper course among the nations of the world.
Today we have lost our way again. Commonsense has been replaced by frequent bouts of irrationality. We see enemies in our neighbors. We see invasions where the invaders are merely trying to leave the terrorism of poverty and autocracy. We see motives in the people coming across our borders. Republicans see Democrats’ ulterior motives because these poor immigrants will vote Democrat since Democrats support the poor. Hell, my fellow conservatives! Get a grip on reality. Those immigrants may one day vote for the elected officials who supported their full inclusion in our society. If that is the case, perhaps the conservative Christians who seem to make up the far-right should do a little soul-searching and ask and answer—the question so often asked to determine morality and ethics of a given issue, “What would Jesus Do?”
I think we know the answer to that question, whatever our political ideology.
Lest I only make an incomplete argument and only point the finger at the right, everything written in the paragraphs above pertains equally to the far and far-far left. How easy it has been for liberals to forget the violence that erupted in the west coast cities of our country purely because Donald Trump was legitimately elected President, as was Joe Biden four years later. It is interesting how easy it is to abandon common sense when it benefits our own purposes—usually related to the accumulation of power to see a selfish agenda accomplished at the expense of other citizens’ legitimate ballots. What would Jesus say to that? Just as fair a question for the left as for the right.
I cannot ignore, nor should it be ignored by the media, but it likely will be that Joe Biden did not mention these atrocious attacks on a legitimately elected President.
Let’s not forget the egregious and downright rancorous remarks of the Democrat’s Rep. Maxine Watters of California, who invited her supporters to intimidate Trump supporters:
“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out, and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
At one time, DC was the place we could point to as the locale most lacking in commonsense. Not anymore. These days it is lacking on front porches, patios, around supper tables, and most depressingly and alarmingly lacking on social media.
Let’s change things. We must search ourselves for our True North Principles. If compassion and understanding of the views and circumstances of others are, perhaps, way back on the top shelf of ourconsciousness gathering dust, we need to reach way back into the values of our childhood values—maybe at four years old. We will find them there. We learned them from our parents and in kindergarten or possibly Sunday School. Now is the time to bring them to the forefront of our daily moral thoughts and decisions that flow from those considerations.
An easy way to get started is to find something we can do for other people—people we do not know—and begin doing that something just because it is the right thing to do, and doing it makes us feel better. My personal thing is opening doors for other people. It is such a small thing—usually a bit unexpected. It always brings a “Thank You” from the recipient and a smile on my face and deep down inside. Why? Because I know my Mama would be proud that I listened when she taught me about what it means to be a Southern Gentleman!
And… for God’s sake, let’s do it now!
I am confident that, in the end, common sense and justice will prevail. I’m an optimist, brought up on the belief that if you wait to the end of the story, you get to see the good people live happily ever after.
– Cat Stevens: Singer and Songwriter