Theodore Roosevelt was my favorite president long before Ken Burns created his documentary about the Roosevelt family. Aside from his mistaken, historical-context-laden Native American policy, which I do not condone, Roosevelt rose to the challenge of Chief Executive and accomplished much in his eight years in the Oval Office. What makes him unique is that instead of trying to change people and issues on the other side of the political spectrum, Roosevelt tackled the problems that his own party was responsible for aiding and abetting. Through his family’s impressive economic and political profile, Roosevelt represented the party of Big Business. Yet he successfully limited the powers of big business, namely the growth of corporations, during his time in office. As an insider, Roosevelt knew well how to get their attention then motivate them to cooperate, effectively throttling a power that promised to run away with any sort of individual rights for the people and small organizations. His method of operation is one we should all consider and apply to ourselves.
With whatever demographic you associate, look to call down your own trouble-makers instead of pointing across whatever barrier there is, to someone who sees things differently (Notice I didn’t say “wrongly”). I’m speaking in extreme opposites on purpose: Immigration? If you’re a legal immigrant, use your knowledge of families and movements to help the police find law-breaking immigrants. Religion? If you’re religious or atheist, encourage like-minded individuals to find ways to make life better for everyone, instead of acting in destructive ways, which is the antithesis of true spiritual aspirations. Politics? If you’re a Democrat or Republican, stop encouraging the radical 2% fringe on each end, because they don’t represent the best of your party. Economic or social status? Instead of the rich blaming the poor and the poor blaming the rich for all social ills, try to get your “brother” or “neighbor” to see how he might be adding to the problem, in the myriad minor ways people warp and tilt the law in their favor.
With a little forethought and dedication, you can use your situation as an insider in your own subgroup, as Roosevelt did, to appeal to citizens who are acting against the best interests of our country. We aren’t getting anywhere gouging at “the enemy,” whatever side of whatever skirmish we’re on. There’s really so much more that we have in common, if we would quit focusing on another group whose views on one subject or in one area might be opposite our own. Trust that “they” have their reasons, and, just like “your” group, most are committed to trying to make our world a better place.
We extol the courage of our military heroes. Does it really take that much courage to look at a bigot or sycophant and say, hey, bud, dial it down?!
So call down those in your own ranks who are giving the other side a target. I’d much rather someone I know and trust point out my thought distortions, gross exaggerations, and self-justifications than someone I expect to see the worst in me. I’ll pay much more attention to the former.
Roosevelt became president after the assassination of William McKinley. Who knows if he ever would have been elected president on his own? But when he was presented the opportunity, he made a difference. We each have unique opportunities in our own spheres of influence. Don’t waste your resources slinging hardballs into a brick wall; that negative energy keeps your hands dirty. See what you can do with the folks on your side of the issue. While you focus on that irritant in your own eye, that speck in your adversary’s eye might become less of a bother, and you might find ways to work together in spite of yourselves.