I still have the first book I read about Thanksgiving — the inscription was from a friend and dated 1966, so I was probably in first grade. The book is about the Pilgrims who worked a new land and found a wary friendship with Indians. Together they shared the fruits of their first crops and their new relationships and the prospects for what would be the foundation of our democracy. They sat across the table, not always understanding each other, but with open and hopeful hearts for the future together.
Of course, the first Thanksgiving lasted three days, with games and hunting and napping and much eating. The Pilgrims and the Indians, by all accounts, made much of the fact that sitting at a table together was of the utmost importance in developing a relationship.
Huntersville has just completed our 2013 campaign season, the time where people sign up to run for the offices of mayor and commissioners. I have had the chance to participate in eight elections and I will honestly say this was the saddest. It disappointed me to see people who wanted to divide our community in order to serve the community. It saddened me that several times I had to ask someone “How can you hate me so much when you don’t even know me?”. Even now, I field random emails from citizens who got so riled up with rumor and innuendo that they shoot off faceless comments with no intent but to hurt.
And why? I’d contend it is because we are not seated at the table together anymore. We make it a point to keep our distance, because it’s safer. Safer from face to face confrontation. Safer from having to admit you don’t understand the issues. Safer from “giving in” or compromising or showing weakness. Safer from developing relationships.
For six years, Huntersville has been on a path of progress. We have worked hard, those of us elected into public service, to reach out to others, to work toward positive headlines, to combine our efforts and to incorporate the efforts of other active citizens to make our town a better place. Someone asked me today if I was upset about the voter turnout. Of course, but I am more upset that citizens are so incredibly tired of the arguing that they believe people who run for office are Republican or Democrat first, and Christians or compassionate hearts second. And I am upset that some people are more apt to think the worst of people before putting two and two together and perhaps thinking the best.
For the woman who said, “I feel sorry for you” when my mother told her I was her daughter, for the man who said Chinese people drove on his road and that must mean I was bringing Communists to take over the town, for the person who sent the anonymous email to several candidates laced with obscenities and for the 18-year olds who told me their vote wouldn’t make a difference — you all are wrong. Simply wrong. There ARE good people amongst us. There are people with hearts, people who care, people who understand that there is no better feeling than to give of yourself with no expectations. Your votes count, your opinion counts, your willingness to enter into civilized debates — that all counts.
We entered the campaign season on the heels of a government shutdown, where Republicans and Democrats alike refused to work together, refused to sit down at the table together. And as a result, they missed the opportunity to realize that we really have much more in common than we thought. We are the descendants of Pilgrims…and of Indians…and of the immigrants to America that came for better lives and to join others with that hope.
I’ll set the table. I hope you will join me in the next two years for a fruitful coming together of ideas to make our community stronger and more unified.