Words is hard!
That’s always the thing I say when I talk about writing and, for that matter, speaking. Conveying our thoughts in clear ways is one of the most difficult parts of being human. And it’s excruciatingly difficult while living in a society trying to enact change or, at least, up-hold what is thought to be good.
And, tonight, I witnessed how difficult it is. I watched folks, who are separated by certain concepts that make it difficult for them to come together, talk to one another in seemingly unending circles. But something else also happened that was extraordinary.
One group of like-minded individuals stood off to the side watching another group of like-minded individuals gather. They looked at each other as if the other group didn’t have a clue what they were talking about and there was seeming disdain for each other’s beliefs. One group carries signs referring to bigotry with an image of Trump on it. The other group had an individual with a Trump flag wrapped around his shoulder.
Then… began the pledge to the flag of the United States of America.
And they all stopped staring at each other and focused on the flag.
The flag of “their” country.
Their skepticism about each other was suspended as they joined in a common belief and respect and love of country. They all looked up at the flag and, for a moment, spoke the same words and pledged the same ideals… the same ideals that allowed them to then revert back to disagreeing with one another after they finished.
My colleague Jim Meyer, who was reporting on the Oil Region Rising March, witnessed another beautiful moment just minutes earlier. In his story he wrote: “Wil Logsdon, who attended on the side of Oil Region Rising, used this as a teachable moment for his children. ‘That guy over there likes Trump, and these people don’t,” he told his daughter. “‘But we’re all Americans, so that’s OK.'”
It is in this that the core truth begins to come out. The core understanding that we all really need to draw on. The core belief in what this country believes and allows us to live freely under – that we are supposed to disagree, that in disagreement comes discussion.
Where we fail is when we just shout at one another and don’t discuss, don’t listen, don’t hear the intent behind the words.
Words is hard.
To say I was proud tonight would be an understatement. After the rally, Jim and I did the job of journalists. We talked to both sides standing on the lawn of our county’s courthouse. Then, we stayed and witnessed further discussions happening between the folks from Oil Region Rising and the folks there to listen and show their support for our president with the Trump flag and a few Make America Great Again hats.
And they talked.
And they occasionally talked over each other and their voices escalated slightly, but never out of control. But they acknowledged each other’s points and they agreed they had more that was in common than what was different.
Jim Meyer also chatted with Sugarcreek police Officer Ryan Ashbaugh, who was there unofficially to listen to the marchers talk on the courthouse steps. He stood with the Trump supporters. He wrote this “Ryan Ashbaugh, who observed the march at a distance from beginning to end, expressed pride in his community for the way opposing sides engaged with each other.”
“One good thing about a small community like this is that there wasn’t a bunch of yelling and screaming,” Ashbaugh said. “We all can have our say.””
I stuck around to listen, not offering much until the end when the last Rising member left. I was fascinated with the dialogue that was civil and yet pointed. No one got out of hand and they all shook hands. They are all neighbors after all and I think it comes down to that a little.
It is easy for us to get uppity about our beliefs, and it is certainly easy to spout them off carelessly with the utmost conviction on social media. But when we talk face to face without being too condescending to one another, we realize we have more in common than we have differences.
I chatted further with folks about Lincoln and states rights and social security and the millionaire senators and so on. At one point, one of the folks turned to me insinuating that I’m not a Trump supporter (even though I was trying to careful not to say one way or another) by saying to me, “Well, that sounded an awful lot like something Trump would say.”
I laughed and said, “Well you know, even a broke clock is right twice a day.”
And we laughed.
I have pride in our community tonight! I think if the people wearing Make America Great Again hats believe what they say, they should join the folks from Oil Region Rising and continue the debate. And, if Oil Region Rising is committed to making America Great by their thoughts of non-partisanship and inclusiveness, then they will welcome them in and work toward solutions, through debate and understanding of each others concerns on the issues. Maybe in those discussions, the true common ground can be achieved and built upon. Afterall, the group of people that stuck around to chat left feeling good about the conversations. They had a little more understanding of what each other struggles to understand. And how both sides are well versed in how little they know about each other’s history or how they have come to develop the opinions they have. And that is eye opening.
And it’s how they came to shake hands and express thanks for the conversations.
Somewhere in our desire to be human to one another and to create a better world for ourselves and our children is common ground.
Please check out Jim Meyer’s story at TheDerrick.com.
Below are a few more photos from the march. When I began to photograph the march, I thought it was just going to be a little march that made a few people feel good that they did something, but not really accomplish much. Afterwards, I had hope that maybe right here in Franklin there could be a small band of people who got together to today to begin to do extraordinary things.