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Our Ugly Underbelly

Editorial | February 16th, 2022

By John Strand                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

jas@hpr1.com

Our opinion: War diminishes human potential.

On a daily basis it’s now oddly, horribly challenging for folks locally and globally to simply reconnect with their innate humanity and try to get along. How hard is that?

Well, it’s apparently very hard, a challenge so daunting that far too many decent people have thrown in the towel, or worse, they’ve joined the fray and are up to their eyeballs in one fight or another.

Some fear this is the new American way. Many contend that our very form of representative government is in dire jeopardy. Actions and behaviors displayed by people of prominence and supposed positions of leadership in fact contribute to this erosion of our confidence in the American experiment, that is to say, a free democratic society and the pursuit of happiness for every one of us.

Here in North Dakota, The Peace Garden State, one would think we’d not be like everyone else. Yet that’s an unsubstantiated premise. Quite frankly, North Dakotans are also contributing to what historically may be one of the most difficult times in our relatively young country’s journey.

Rather than joining forces to work together, we see one side disparage the other side. We see some who denigrate and demean others, sometimes to their faces. We see a lack of willingness to empathize, be genuinely caring, put differences aside and support one another.

We see fight in people’s eyes. And we need to put that hatred aside.

Sure, people can have differences of opinion. But does that justify marginalizing the other, who is not of our kind? Have they no dignity? Do they not deserve respect? Must we ask if they have the right to exist?

Years ago, one of the wonderfully respected and few women leaders in North Dakota, Agnes Geelan, advanced the notion that North Dakota could take a lead role in the world by teaching peace. Our world players certainly know how to go to war, but just how adept are we at seeking and fostering peace? Obviously not good enough.

Geelan suggested the U.S. create a Peace Academy and that it be placed in North Dakota, the Peace Garden State. In the late 1980s, she took that message to the U.S. Capitol and to the United Nations. She died recognized as one of America’s most prominent peace advocates.

Imagine Agnes Geelan who in her lifetime experienced 11 wars involving the United States of America and in every instance, regardless of circumstances, the people were lock-step patriotic, buying into the notion that war was necessary.

Geelan’s message was simple: War is a shortcoming in the human potential.

Whether it’s at our small town cafes or local barber and beauty shops, every unfolding new moment offers an opportunity to seek out the high road. If we so choose. Or, as we’ve come to know all too well, to tacitly accept the ugliness of our collective and sometimes individual underbellies. These are simple personal choices. It’s in these very moments, however inconsequential, that we can begin to turn humanity around and to aim for better tomorrows.

Sure, it’s easy to preach, point fingers, to say it’s always someone else and not us. Heck, we could rationalize our behavior until we are blue in the face. Yet in the end, everything we do and everything we say is what we truly are. It is all a reflection of ourselves, and not always a good one.

So let’s be nice, make peace, quit fighting. Let’s seek out the high road and use our god-given energies and skills for the betterment of humanity, not for its destruction.

There’s little doubt that stress does unending harm to each of us and to all of us collectively. Negative energies fuel further negativity, much like love begets further love.

Wouldn’t you all agree it’s time to change this paradigm, to turn things around toward more loving, constructive ends? Time to join in and later say truly, “We did our best.”?

Therein lies the secret of our very own personal power. We make choices. That said, let’s choose to be better people.

Is that too hard to ask?

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