I believe

Screenshot 2016-06-16 at 4.30.11 PMI know it’s there.

Like the warm good-bye hug from a child when they leave for camp. You can still feel it even when they’re gone. You know the love is still there. It’s a part of you, even as it moves miles and miles from home.

Unity. Compassion. It’s there. I can feel it, even when it’s hidden behind a cloud of anger and blame.

Remember 911, when we were all New Yorkers? Sandy Hook? Boston strong? Do you remember how our hearts broke for Paris, and just like that, we were one with France?

I remember.

Now, in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, there has been enough finger pointing that it seems our country could use one giant manicure. Political debate has, too often, pushed caring and unity into the backseat.

And then, as mourners gathered in Atlanta to honor the victims in Orlando, I heard them sing:

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining,

I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.

I believe in this country, even when we’re divided. So often, I’ve seen us come together, united in our hurt, in our resolve, in our purpose. When others lash out at us, we put party affiliations and petty differences aside to bond. I’ve seen it happen.

I believe.

We are the United States of America, not the Fractured States of America.

Giving up would cost me everything

So, I’ll stand in the pain and silence

And I’ll speak to the dark night.

I remember when it was my city under attack by a crazy man who marred what was an otherwise magical Olympic games. It was Atlanta’s time in the world spotlight, and Eric Rudolph brought his darkness. I remember taking it personally. It hurt, deep down, every time he placed one of his bombs in a different spot around our town. In those days, we weren’t subject to the long-time listeners, first-time callers with opinions of who failed to do what to prevent the madness. The world stood with us, denouncing the terror, urging Atlanta to heal.

It’s only logical that we want to understand the motivations behind these savage acts of terrorism. But comprehending the act means unraveling a tightly twisted mind. I was close enough to one of Eric Rudolph’s bombs that the FBI regarded me as a victim. I sat just an arm’s length from him inside a Birmingham courtroom. So close, and yet a billion miles away. I read the letters from his fictional Army of God. He justified his actions to the court by speaking of the British crown, the Pharisaical sect, by calling the Olympics a celebration of global socialism, and revealing that his goal was to “drag this monstrosity of a government down into the dust.” Read it all a thousand times. It will make sense to Eric Rudolph, and Eric Rudolph alone. Given the opportunity to question the Orlando killer, I suspect the explanation would be equally baffling. We won’t get that chance. He’s answering to a higher power.

No dark can consume light,

No death greater than this life,

We are not forgotten.

I believe in the compassion of this country, even as it waits its turn behind the heat of a political season. There is a time and place to discuss the difficult issues swirling around the latest act of incomprehensible violence. We can have those talks remembering that WE are not the enemy. We are the UNITED States of America. Together we stand. Divided, we fall to those who wish to harm us.

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining,

I believe in love even when I don’t feel it,

And I believe in God even when He is silent.

Maybe it’s time we are silent for a moment, silent as a country, so that God can speak. Let’s be silent for a moment and breathe, giving the families and friends of the lost room to cry. Perhaps if our hands weren’t shaped around our opinions like bullhorns, it would free us to wrap our arms around one another, and unite.

Though I can’t see my stories ending,

That doesn’t mean the dark night has no end.

It’s only here that I find faith,

And learn to trust the one who writes my days.

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Punch and civic duty

the fight to voteThree times, I’ve started a commentary on the sizzling political climate in our country.

Twice, I’ve waded hip deep into waters warm enough to scald. Wisely, I dashed back to the beach for a cool drink and reflection.

Tentatively, I wade again.

I’m hesitant to talk politics. No matter what you say, someone is going to disagree. Maybe a lot of someones. The more someones with an opposing view, the more landmines hidden in any political conversation.

This election year, the landmines are loaded with nitroglycerine.

The punch card has been replaced by the sucker punch.

I may risk a black eye, but I can’t stay quiet.

It seems we’ve lost respect for each other. Let’s face it, every American has a right to support their candidate of choice. It doesn’t matter if that candidate wants to change our currency from the dollar bill to slices of pineapple upside down cake. If a registered voter wants to support a politician who wears diapers and rides to work on a forklift, that’s his business. If you don’t like the placard in your neighbor’s yard, go vote for someone else. There’s no need to go all Mike Tyson on them. I mean, your candidate pours vodka on his Grape Nuts. Get over yourself.

What really bothers me is the anger. It’s one thing to disagree and even argue over issues and platforms. It’s another to see passion turn into a bloody lip. What does that accomplish, exactly? By tearing the other guy’s sign to shreds, do you think he’s now going to hoist the banner of your guy? Do you think berating the opposition makes your candidate more appealing?

You’ve seen the news. Political rallies turn to street brawls. Debates turn into temper tantrums. Supporters of one candidate display a middle finger, supporters of another deliver a set of knuckles.

I really have to wonder what made this country so angry. I have to think the discord has been there for awhile, like a rancid navel orange just waiting for someone to remove the thick peel. Many are disenchanted with our elected officials, and I get it. Inside the Beltway, progress meets the filibuster. Nothing irritates me more than a member of Congress who staples his worthless, self-serving legislation to a worthy bill to guarantee its passage. Sneaky. Underhanded. It’s been going on for 100 years. Pork is often the Prince of Politics.

That’s why our founding fathers gave us the opportunity to vote the bums out. The Constitution gives us the right to bear arms, not break them.

Worse than the anger is the hatred. People are using the political turmoil as an excuse to hate. They believe our country favors some over others. The rich get richer. The poor get free phones. That guy isn’t as smart or as hardworking as me, but he has a better paying job. Life is, indeed, unfair. That’s no reason to hate. Seriously. After all, there is someone smarter and harder working than you who isn’t nearly as blessed. I guarantee it. Should he hate you? No.

It’s also become popular to blame one particular candidate for all of the anger and hatred. I’m not going there. That’s the bubbling crude I’m trying to avoid. Besides, no one candidate created the anger. This political season tapped into a deep, rich vein that we ourselves created. We are the ones who send the ugly ooze spilling over our nation, and it’s not just the supporters of one candidate. I’ve seen hate, and then hate for those who hate.

I love America. The country of my birth has its imperfections, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The upside of living here far, far outweighs the aggravating inconsistencies of the people we put in charge. And remember…we put them there. We did that.

I can see the need for change in the culture that dominates our nation’s capital. But it’s not a need that calls for turning on each other. We, the voters, the people who are supposed to run this country, we are the ones who can change that culture. We do it on a soapbox, inside the voting booth, with passion, not profanity.

We won’t always unite on how to bring about that change, but there is a famous saying that tells us what will happen when we are divided. We can disagree on ideas and issues, and still unite in our desire to make our country better. Respect for one another needs to be a part of the equation. That goes for the politicians, as well as the voters.

We need to vote with our hearts, with our brains, and not with our fists.