Dennis “Doc” Moss, former mayor of Isle and retired Navy officer, probably disagrees with my politics more than anyone I know.
Yet the other day, when I got out of my car, I heard Doc’s hearty voice thundering down the street. “Good morning, Brett!”
“Good morning, Doc!” I hollered back.
That’s the America I love — two opposites enjoying a summer day together.
Remember the old Warner Brothers cartoon with the sheepdog and the coyote? The coyote would try to steal the sheep, and the dog would put him through all kinds of torment.
At the end of the day, both would punch a time clock. “See you later, Ralph,” said the dog. “Yeah, see you tomorrow, Sam,” replied the coyote.
That’s the America I love: Fight like heck to do your duty, but don’t let it turn you against your neighbor.
Doc’s one of those old-school Americans. Instead of watching TV all day and learning to fear his neighbors, he can usually be found out on the town making something happen — often side-by-side with those he disagrees with.
These old school Americans are the ones who plan our summer celebrations. They start chambers of commerce and farmers markets, they volunteer at the food shelf and the church, they run for local office, and they coach a little league team or two.
In the old days, people spent time with their opponents — at church, at the lodge, at the bar — so they found out they had a lot in common. They could love their enemies, because they knew them.
Nowadays, so many of us are cocooned in our living rooms that we don’t meet the people on the other side of the fence. We only know them from the TV and their comments on the Internet.
The news has taught us to live in fear of each other. One side thinks the Socialists are coming; the other side is scared of the Fascists.
Fear leads to anger — the media’s favorite emotion. TV news programs love to show pictures of people with signs shouting at other people with signs.
When all you know about America is what you see on the TV and read on partisan websites, you start to think we’re at each other’s throats — Left vs. Right, Democrat vs. Republican, determined to win at all costs.
The reality is entirely different. Most of us aren’t that angry or afraid, and we don’t want to destroy the opposition. We know that both sides have caused problems, and neither has all the solutions. There’s no “my way or the highway” because we’re all on the same road together.
As the governor and state Legislature reached a compromise last week, House Speaker Kurt Zellers called it “a deal we can all be disappointed in.”
That’s as it should be in the America I love.
We learned about the Great Compromise in history class, and we know that in America, no person or party has ever gotten everything they wanted. If they did, the other half would be miserable, and that would not be the America we love.
Anyone who’s been married knows you learn when you lose. If you had your way every day, you’d be a dying plant that got sunshine but no rain. The middle ground is most fertile for growing a family — or a nation.
The America we love is a place where no one is utterly defeated, and where dog and coyote bellow their greetings down the street.
In the America we love, everyone is a little unhappy. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.