Abraham Lincoln famously said, “A house divided upon itself cannot stand.” One of our nation’s founding fathers said, “United we stand, divided we fall.”
Is there anyone among us who does not agree with these sentiments? Yet, we have become our worst enemy this year. The discord and hate feels more vitriolic than ever, fueled by divisive leadership on both sides of the political aisle.
I don’t need to remind anyone what’s been happening. Mitch Albom said it best yesterday in his column in the Detroit Free Press: The election will be meaningless if we don’t change our ways.
Fear seems to be driving this division, spurred on – just my theory - by the physical ‘social’ distancing and masks mandated by living through a pandemic. We connect with each other with a handshake; we read each others’ faces. It’s tough to feel empathy for our fellow human beings when we have these barriers between us.
Last week I shared some results from farmers who responded to our survey question, “What keeps farmers up at night?” The results indicate a deep divide, even among farmers. Those who responded to these blogs offer more evidence that the divide is deep and can be seen on many levels, from politics to policies.
“I am more than amused, often angered, but never surprised that many farmers are deeply concerned about their financial future, yet ardently support the man who used executive orders to destroy their hard won markets, and though they are opposed to any program which has any hint of socialist tendencies, they are the first in line to pick up that MFP (Market Facilitation Program) check,” wrote Paul Penner, Hillsboro, KS farmer and past National Association of Wheat Growers president.
“As a farm lobbyist/officer for the wheat industry back in 2010-2016, some of our biggest opponents we encountered defending crop insurance programs were farmers themselves. I do not doubt those folks ever bothered to thank us during last year's weather disaster, when crop insurance kept many afloat.
“The future of a viable insurance program may well be in jeopardy if both sides cannot learn to come together and mend fences and relationships, thanks to extreme partisanship.”
Lonnie Dale Gibson, Jr., from Arbyrd, MO, was more than amused by the question. “Nothing really keeps me up at night except Netflix, lol,” he wrote. (He also mentioned prayer as a powerful antidote to sleepless nights – amen to that.) But Gibson is definitely looking for Trump to “finish what he started with the trade wars.” He also feels deregulation has helped agriculture and worries that “the left will impose greater regulations and drive farmers out of the profession.”
A clouded future
The two most striking responses, though, came from farm women. They worry about the future we leave to our children.
“It does bother me to see so much division and hatred in our country,” wrote Susan Wall, of Sorento, IL. “I firmly believe there are two reasons for these problems: one is the lack of spiritual and religious structure in our people, and every time we listen to our leader all we hear are hateful, condescending remarks -- either about our country or the people who are dedicated to making sure our country is running properly.
“Sadly, even though we are adults, we still behave as children and we imitate those who are above us.”
Susan worries, as we all should, about the increasingly polarized political world we live in today.
“In 2016 when I heard mention of socialism, I laughed and thought someone is totally off their rocker,” she notes, “(but) I also worry about the far right just as much. There are some really wacko people out there.”
Kim Purvis, a third generation farmer from Prophetstown, IL, echoed Susan’s sentiments.
“What keeps me up at night is the world we are leaving to our children,” writes Kim, who farms with her husband, brother and parents. They have three kids age 21, 18 and 14.
“I fear the future they face,” she says. “We have stopped teaching our kids the values that have made this country strong in the past, and the values that have been especially inherent in farm families and farming communities.”
Toxic political climate
Kim worries that we can no longer agree to disagree respectfully. “We must demonize others to try to prove one side is right,” she says. “My son is a Trump supporter, and instead of discussing the things Trump has done well, he makes fun of Biden, to the extent of being cruel. I asked him why he dislikes Biden so much, and he could give no answer. I know the answer, it is what he sees, what we as a society have taught him.
“I explained to my kids that I am a conservative and I do not support most of Biden's policies. HOWEVER, Biden has served this country for 47 years, he has sent his son to fight for this country, and Biden has dedicated his life to this country. We do not have to agree with him, we do not have to vote for him, but we should absolutely respect him. “We need to teach our children to be strong in their beliefs, stand-up for their convictions, but have compassion and respect for those with whom we disagree.”
Solving problems together
Kim worries that we are raising kids that will only know how to criticize and make demands all from behind a computer screen or a phone, with no idea how to be part of solving problems together, and without taking ownership in creating progress in our communities and nation.
“I fear our youth will have no idea what "We The People" even means,” she concludes.
As usual, I don’t need to add anything; our readers say it all. Thank you for sharing.
The only question now, is, what kind of future do you want to create? We each have choices to make every day, in how we react to people we don’t agree with, in how we say or do things that either unite or divide.
What kind of country do you want to live in?
I suggest that, no matter who wins Tuesday (or for however long it will take to find out), let’s vow to put politics aside. Let’s remember that what we have in common is stronger than what divides us. Remember to practice and share the values that make this country special. Each day do one thing that makes you feel good about our collective future. Don’t let hate enter your world.
The America we have today is not the America I know and love. We can and will do better.