Last month, I drove through the South from Miami to Denver, seeking to connect with my fellow Americans in a way I never had before. I drove through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. I’d been in Miami my whole life and felt like I needed to talk to people to see if America had changed from what I recalled it had been in my youth, a friendly, outgoing culture, to a place of greater hostility and intolerance. And if it were the latter, I wanted to see if our differences were unreconcilable.
On the day I left, totally by chance, I listened to my patriotic music playlist as I drove. I guess I was embarking on a trip across America and I was yearning for a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow citizens. Being frank, I so wanted to prove to myself that we still are the “United” States, despite present day rhetoric, that I teared up to some of those songs. That’s how badly I wanted to feel a kinship with my compatriots.
I can honestly say that everyone I met along the way was friendly, sometimes incredibly so. I shared a lunch counter with a young woman in Birmingham, Alabama, had coffee with a 23 year old minister in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, had drinks with four middle-age businessmen in Jackson, Mississippi, and had a deep conversation with two gay women with whom I shared a house in Blue Springs, Arkansas.
Then, on a Saturday afternoon, I was driving down main street in Russelville, Arkansas (pop. 28,000) to get something to eat and came across 20 people sitting in lawn chairs holding American flags in front of a funeral home. Curious, I stopped and approached a gentleman older than I, introduced myself and asked what was going on. Doug was his name. He told me that a ninety-something year old Korean war vet from their town had just passed away and that the hearse was bringing him to the funeral home. Doug and the other folks with flags were there to pay their respects to their fellow resident.
The next day as I drove the incredibly scenic drive through the Ozark Mountains, the beauty of the land underneath me, and the beauty of those people I had met the past week still on my mind, I came to the thought that despite our many differences of opinion, we all love freedom the same. We express ourselves in different ways but there’s no doubt in my mind that all Americans love our country and our freedom the same as I do. We are passionate about our beliefs and think our way is the right way. But what is right anyway?
What is our end goal in expressing our beliefs anyway? To ensure that our democracy endures and provides us with security, freedom and happiness? We surely don’t differ on those desires. So, it’s just the means by which we achieve those goals that we differ on. Our founders and subsequent generations differed as vehemently on issues as we do. And I dare guess they didn’t always express themselves courteously. No one got their way 100% of the time. And yet, we sit here today in a country that’s gives us what we want, security, freedom and the ability to pursue our happiness.
Is it perfect? No! We’re not perfect and since our country is us, how could it be perfect? My wish for us this Thanksgiving is that we thank our forebearers and ourselves for preserving our precious democracy since its founding. I hope we all can appreciate that we love our freedom equally. And that none of us have all the right answers. We believe we know what’s best but so do others. We must respect that fact and give and take.
It’s unrealistic that in the year ahead, to expect that the nastiness of campaigns will disappear. We know what to expect in 2020. But we don’t have to fall prey to that ugliness and perpetuate it ourselves. Let’s appreciate that we all love freedom equally and that the preservation of our cherished democracy depends not on always getting our way but by winning some and losing some. That’s what got us this far since 1776 and that’s what will forever be the case.
My friends, I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with the nourishing warmth of your family and friends, the smells of delicious recipes in the house, the compassion for the less fortunate around the globe, and appreciation for our freedom. And that you end Thanksgiving Day with a peaceful, easy feeling. And maybe the playing of The Stars and Stripes Forever.
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This is Robert Band, your business finance expert, helping business owners make their accounting problems go away. Remember, one tip could be worth millions and profits today become fortunes tomorrow so don’t let them fall through the cracks.