Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday November 20th 2018

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Outtakes—United We Stand

By Rick Outzen

I received an email from a reader that was upset about last week’s “Outtakes” column that called for the president to lead multi-denominational services for peace and healing in wake of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh (Inweekly, “Rally for Peace,” Nov. 1).

In face of rising anti-Semitism in the country, I felt President Trump should condemn the attacks on any religion. My opinions earned me the moniker “tree hugger.”

Don’t worry. I’ve been called much worse.

However, the email pointed out to me how virtues once treasured by our society have fallen out of favor in politics—compassion, tolerance, honesty and statesmanship. General George Washington wasn’t revered by his contemporaries for how he vanquished his enemies. He worked to unify the states, which had widely different interests, into one nation because he understood our new republic had a tenuous place on the world stage.

Washington understood that the president must bring opposing views to the table and get people to work together for the common good. To disagree on an issue doesn’t make people enemies. For the United States to stay united, consensus and compromise are paramount.

In his farewell address, President Washington spoke about how important the unity of government was to him. He said, “…it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.”

He urged the people to watch for the preservation of government unity “with jealous anxiety and discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.”

Today, power has trumped compassion. Tribalism has replaced tolerance. Winning at any cost has overruled honesty. Party loyalty has sidetracked statesmanship, and reconciliation has become a liberal, “tree hugging” view.

I’m writing this column on the morning of the Nov. 6 election. I have no idea whether control the Florida governorship and Congress will change hands. However, I hope that whoever is in control of our federal, state and local governments will heed the words of President Washington.

For our nation, state and community to stay great, our elected officials must work toward consensus, placing the needs of the whole above their personal political careers because I agree with Washington that the unity of our government is the key to our independence.