Missing the boat

By: 
Gerard Rebman

To the Editor:

The Gasconade County Fair parade offered an interesting glimpse into the political landscape that is dominating the news and mood across our country.

I walked with the Democrats Club and our float was themed “We’re all in the same boat” — trying to reach out to both political parties to realize that while we may have our differences on specific policies, we have so much in common and at risk as citizens of the U.S. 

There was a story built into our float. The rocking boat had symbols of both parties riding in it (a blue donkey and a red elephant) and was identified as America by flags in the bow and stern. Rough waters and rocks represented dangers to our democracy and were labeled with threats forever relevant. 

“Dark money” — when have hidden sources of political influence ever benefitted any political system. “Lies” — we need the truth to make good decisions. 

“Prejudice” comes in many forms and none are conducive to fairness or understanding. Try defending prejudice as a principle and you’ll soon find yourself looking a fool. 

“Huge Debt” is obviously a burden to an economy and future generations. 

“Obstruction of justice” — ever and always wrong. “Election meddling” — what democracy can tolerate that whether the source is foreign or domestic? 

Where is anything a non-guilty conscience would take offence at?

And yet as I looked into the crowd what I saw seemed an echo of the nation as a whole…quiet distrust separated by sections of enthusiastic approval and occasional pockets of incivility.

One father loudly advised his son to pick up a tossed candy and throw it back at my head. I had to wonder if he’d bothered to read our message, or if he just demonstrated knee-jerk rudeness with anything colored Democrat blue.

I suspect the latter. 

Our float was pretty darned nice — a labor of hope if not love. And while there was a definite Democratic slant, it carried a message that might have given us something to build a productive conversation around — a chance to fashion something positive out of a scarred political/social battlefield. Did it succeed?

I felt less hopeful after the parade than before, less respectful of some members of our community than before. Have we really been so induced to hatred by divisive rhetoric that we can’t even reach out peacefully to one another any more? 

Once we had a Civil War, now we seem to have an Uncivil one that quietly distills our good qualities into bad, that turns loyalty and resolve into blind allegiance and stone wall enmity. Without losing our integrity, we should be able to rise above inflamed partisanship and find respect, reason, and common ground. If we can’t, I’m afraid the parade will just pass us by.