“This is tearing the country apart.”—Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
In the great affairs of nation states, perspective derived from individual members of their societies can often be instructive.
A woman prone to the consideration of the philosophical, my late mother once had a friend, a master jeweler friend in Clarksdale, who just happened to be Jewish.
Mother loved Max Plittman not for his gemology skills, which were both considerable and renowned, but rather for his mind, which was precise, without loss of the refining nature of kindness, a trait whose absence or presence ultimately serves to define mankind.
They talked and they made each other think, which evolved into respect, one for the other. When advancing years resulted in declining eyesight for Max, my mother would go to his home and read to him—the Bible, the Torah, the great philosophers—whatever struck their respective fancies that day.
I had the extreme good fortune to accompany Momma on one of those days when as fate would have it, Max’s rabbi also stopped by his house and we both listened intently as the two of them, as was their custom, discussed and debated the metaphysical aspects of life from sometimes respective, often intersecting perspectives.
“Did you hear that point? Did you hear what she said, Rabbi?” Max inquired of his religious leader. “Is that not true wisdom?”
“But Max,” the Rabbi responded, “she’s a Christian.”
To which the splendid old jeweler answered in a voice as dry as a fossil, “Well, Rabbi, I don’t think God will hold that against her.”
A little tolerance, spiced with just a hint of common sense, goes a long way in this world.
I, too, have a friend, who also just happens to be Jewish. We, along with a group of others, have lunch together at a local function almost every week.
And on almost every one those weeks, all of us recite the Pledge of Allegiance and one of the more devout among us offers up a prayer for the meal we are about to consume, one which invariably concludes by thanking and seeking the Deity’s blessing “in Jesus’ name.”
And although that certainly isn’t in keeping with the tenets of my friend’s faith, he never has and I am rather certain never would say the first word about it, because as a man of faith, he has both the good manners and good sense to display respect for and tolerance of the beliefs of others.
My Jewish friend knows that none of the other Christian ones would intentionally try to slight, or offend him.
He knows, as do I, that it has likely never even occurred to them that it might, and in that he has always displayed the good taste and dignity to never allow it to occur to them.
Once again, a little tolerance, spiced with a hint of common sense, goes a long way in this world.
Might we not give it a try when it comes to our politics?
We have ourselves and we have allowed others to divide us into what are now seemingly constantly warring tribes—Democrats against Republicans, liberals against conservatives—and with each and every issue that arises, we no longer even pause to consider the possibility of compromise, and instead move immediately to confrontation.
Everything, and I do mean everything, is now perceived solely through the respective prisms of our politics, objective truths themselves distorted by our prejudiced perceptions of them.
And while I have quoted these prescient words often over the years, never have they been more true. As a people, we are today like Paul Simon’s lyrical boxer and have “squandered (our) resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises.
All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
But that does not have to continue. We have the power to change it.
My mother and my mother’s friend and my friend are all strong enough, comfortable enough within their beliefs and convictions as to not be threatened or harmed or conflicted when they are confronted by different beliefs and convictions held by their fellow men and women.
Mutual respect would be nice, but in its absence, can we not at least re-adopt good manners?
Finding common ground could be a goal but until we reach it, might we at least stop lobbing grenades at one another from our separate hills?
What is true within personal interactions is also true within those of larger groups: A little tolerance, spiced with a hint of common sense, goes a long way in this world.
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.