Our differences don’t have to divide us

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Last week, this column highlighted some simple pleasures that should have brought a smile to people’s faces. The column did just that. For 800 words and however long it takes the average reader to consume those 800 words, all was right in the world.

There was no anger or strife. There was no violence or conflict. For a very short period, those of you who read this column were allowed not to think about anything that was troubling you.

It wasn’t just this column. It might have been the three minutes you took to sing along with your favorite song. Ten minutes playing with your dog or cat took you away from everything that might have been troubling you and you were just fine. Our cat, Cooper, did everything he normally does when we see him. It didn’t matter whether I had a particularly stressful day at work or whether my wife’s health issues had forced her to go to bed early, Cooper was thinking a belly rub was the greatest thing since catnip.

We have been through some trying times for our country of late. If you listen to the folks on television, we are all headed straight to hell in a high-speed handbasket that shows no sign of slowing down. Depending on who you listen to, our country is being led by group of buffoons with little or no social graces so that we find ourselves paying more attention to their ham-handed antics than to the actual accomplishments they have achieved.

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, you just have to wade through the rhetoric and see what has actually been done. Some things have been done, you just have to peer beyond both the right and the left and the political smoke they are blowing. Look down the middle and you will see America is doing just fine. Maybe not as fine as the grand old girl could be doing, but we are far from being put on life support.

I’m not going to bore you with any flag-waving, star-spangled rhetoric of my own. The solution for this goes well beyond whether you stand and put your hand over your heart. I personally have pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Whether you do is up to you.

I know that might be incredible to hear, but it’s true. This is the foundation on which this nation was formed. Liberty. It says it right there in the pledge.

You can be a good American and not say the pledge. I say it. A lot of the folks I know say it. I know a few who choose not to. I don’t particularly like that they do not, but the same Constitution that gives me the right to say it gives them the right not to.

A lot of you seem to think that it shouldn’t be that way. That’s OK, too. The Constitution also gives you the right to think and say that as well.

You’re probably beginning to see how this works. It’s like when you were about 15 and your parents left you alone at home while they went out for a weekend. Act like an adult and you will be treated like one.

Being an American should work the same way. Be different, be the same. Who cares? As long as no one gets an eye put out and our Grandma’s vase doesn’t get broken, we should be able to be left alone to our own devices without burning the country down.

The problem is not Donald Trump. The problem is not Hillary Clinton. The problem is us. We have been left home alone and we have not proven to anyone that we are responsible enough to handle ourselves.

People, including ourselves, need to be held accountable for our actions. We need to stop blaming inanimate objects for our social ills and point the finger at the people who are responsible. We need to make sure that each and every citizen accepts sole responsibility for his or her actions and is held accountable.

We need to stop labeling people by their interests, religion, sexual preference or appearance. At one time, we were all content to be Americans. Now, everyone has to pin a catchy label on everyone else. Quite frankly, it’s dumb. It’s also slowly but surely unraveling the red, white and blue fabric that holds this nation together.

We seem to have lost track of the fact that we live in a true sweet land of liberty. Let us not forget that in the days ahead. We have suffered some blows in the last few weeks, but we will recover. Let us not lose track of the goal.

We need to stop pinning blame. We need to stop pointing fingers. We need to stop, take a moment and look at what makes this country great.

We make this country great. We better start acting like it.

Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.