On a Fourth of July when it seems as if America is being shattered across a night sky like a thousand falling embers from a burst of fireworks, consider Donna and Tim Ben of Philadelphia, Mississippi.
They graciously agreed to interrupt a peaceful side-by-side walk at Bonita Lakes Park in Meridian to discuss their diverse political views for our Pulse of the Voters series.
She’s a Donald Trump supporter, he opposes the president. Yet, as she explained it, “we still love each other.”
They are a good example to follow and they speak to America’s founding on compromise.
Imagine the compromise in his own mind of a slave-owning Thomas Jefferson who wrote the words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Of course, Americans have never formed a perfect union. We’ve only aspired to it, and that is still a beautiful thing that some in other countries can only imagine.
We seem far from united these days. We’re divided by political points of view, financial status, religion, race and almost any difference that can be identified.
We are torn apart by extremes that sow mistrust of all institutions, science and any other point of view but their own.
Fear intensifies the divide as we watch in horror as videos of police abuse and violent mob reactions play out over and over again in endless cycles of news.
Some people have even turned the wearing of a mask that can prevent the spread of a deadly virus into a political statement.
But there are threads of hope, too, that can once again bind our country’s wounds.
There are scenes of people of many backgrounds walking together to seek reform and true justice.
There are scenes from the Capitol in Jackson, Mississippi where Republicans and Democrats, Black and white reached an agreement through peaceful negotiation to remove the divisive Confederate battle emblem from the state’s flag.
And there are individuals such as the Bens of Philadelphia, Mississippi, who have learned to respect each other’s viewpoints. Like many sources in the Pulse of the Voters series, they would like to see our leaders work together.
The way forward for America, as it always has been, is through listening, trying to understand one another and compromise.
We are never going to agree on all things and reach that perfection, but we can listen to each other, respect each other and try to find solutions.
We can glance up at a night sky and see not an explosion of thousands of individual embers fading away, but rather an umbrella of multi-colored lights big enough to protect us all.