As the calendar turns mercifully to 2021, which promises to bring a long-awaited end to a pandemic that has done so much damage to so many, I’d like to share with you my wish for the coming year.
I want us to take a hard look at who we’ve become and remember who we were – before COVID, before we chose sides, before we allowed ourselves to be conned into believing that every aspect of our lives must be viewed through the distorted and divisive lens of politics.
I want us to put aside our political differences and remember that our connection to each other is more important than our allegiance to political parties.
Too many of us have forgotten.
You’d think it couldn’t happen here, in Vero Beach, in a community that celebrates its Mayberry-by-the-Sea persona, embraces its small-town charm and takes such pride in being a special place.
But it has.
Our seaside slice of heaven, it turns out, is no different from hundreds of other communities across America, where the political divide continues to grow.
You see it on social media. You hear it around town. You experience it at governmental meetings, where partisan politics – and the anger it spawns – has impacted the public discourse and decisions made by our County Commission, City Council and School Board.
As we witnessed whenever local officials were confronted by crowds opposed to the adoption of mask mandates during a pandemic-rocked 2020, political expediency trumped common sense and the community’s best interests.
It goes beyond that, however.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that political parties are now endorsing candidates in No Party Affiliation races, such as those for School Board and judges, thumbing their noses at the supposed political independence of those positions.
During Laura Zorc’s two-year run as School Board chairman, in fact, she was publicly criticized by wrongheaded partisan gasbags – one such dunce labeled her “Liberal Laura,” even though she’s a staunch conservative – because she dared vote for Democrat Mara Schiff for vice chairman.
It didn’t matter that Schiff was a respected college professor with strong credentials. She’s a Democrat. She played for the wrong team.
More troubling, though, is how many of us, locally and nationally, are now judging each other using a moral compass that points right and left instead of right and wrong.
We’ve reached a sad and dangerous juncture, where longtime friends – and even family members – no longer can reasonably discuss politics.
Some friends and relatives have become so politically polarized that they’re no longer talking to each other about anything.
Is that how you want to live?
It’s bad enough that so many of us let our political views determine where we get our news, further expanding the gaping divide between ourselves and those across the aisle by choosing to hide in echo chambers, and absorbing only the facts and opinions with which we agree.
Are you really going to allow your politics to decide where you shop and dine? Or which TV shows and movies you watch? Or with whom you socialize?
I know I’m not the only one in Vero Beach who’s worn out by the divisiveness and venom, who wants to see a change in tone and volume, who is ready for politics to move into the background and no longer be a daily topic of conversation.
So, let’s start 2021 the right way – by not talking about politics nearly as much as we did in 2020. And by being less vehement and vitriolic when the topic does come up.
I hope you will grant this wish, and help make New Year 2021 a better year for all of us.