When I was five and a half years old, I remember vividly one cold dreary late Fall afternoon, my mother crying in the kitchen. There were numerous grocery bags on the kitchen counters, but she was too distraught to put them away. My father came home early from work that day to console her and put away what I didn’t know at the time, were items for our Thanksgiving dinner. President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas earlier that day.
In the Spring of my tenth year, we lived in a small prairie town in northeast Mississippi. On the night of April 4th, 1968, the news broke that the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot and killed just up the road in Memphis. The town was already on edge because the public schools were in the early process of Federally forced integration. Bombs were set off at the courthouse by angry and distressed crowds. Our parents kept calm and assured my two younger brothers and me, everything would be OK, but how could they know?
Later that summer, we visited my mother’s parents in a small town in Iowa. Grandpa Ben owned a small grocery store, and I was his chief helper. I remember being glued to the small black and white TV he had in the store, watching the agonizing events of June 5th, 1968, from Los Angeles as we witnessed the President’s brother, Bobby Kennedy slowly pass away, from another assassin’s bullet.
They say a child’s most formative years are between the ages of four and eleven. For my most formative years, three twentieth-century American icons were gunned down in the prime of their lives. I know that had a life-long impact on me.
So, what can we to do as our nation today is so divided? And those in office seem to fuel that divide for their own personal gain? How do we limit the anger and fear and sadness for our youngest generation; for today’s four to eleven-year-olds? Pray for moderation? Pray for patience? Listen? Learn? Yes, to all those and one more thing. We can vote.
We can vote for candidates who show tolerance and moderation, and patience, and who listen and learn from their successes and failures. Is a candidate telling you what they want to do to make our country better, or are they making a scapegoat of some group of people, blaming them for all our problems? Let’s elect candidates who will solve problems, not ones that just name them and blame them on some ethnic, or political group.
It’s not too late to exercise that right today and bring our country back together, to a center, from the fringes of Left and Right ideologies. Our children, and grandchildren are watching. Will they look back someday and remember a world of angry name-calling, fear-mongering, and divisions? Or will they remember a thoughtful nation, of compassion, generosity and unity? Those memories last a life time. What will they remember you doing? You can start by making a stand today. The polls are open. Go make a difference.