In this week’s extremes, can we find common ground?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2017

In the midst of five days that have the bookends of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday and the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump Friday, I searched my heart for what to write. Do I write about those events or play it safe and find another topic?

As I struggled and prayed to the writing gods for help, I heard these words from Andrew Young. “… you can never find common ground without conversation.”

Common ground, that is it. That seems not to exist in our country right now and it makes me sad and anxious.

So, I sat quietly simply breathing and holding those words, common ground. What came to me is that we haven’t lost our common ground. We are simply not seeing what we share and how we are alike.

Perhaps, the biggest thing we share, the most important common ground we walk on is freedom. We have the blessing of being free not to agree with each other or with our leaders.

Long ago when our country was born, the right to free thought and free speech was at the heart of the documents that defined the new nation. That is what still guides it today.

True, some had to fight for their rights because of the color of their skin or their gender. Even now, there is a way to go before we perfect our union.

That is why we need common ground and conversation. If we want these freedoms to be ours and to be here for the next generation, we must look honestly at where we are and where we want to go in the future.

This goes beyond who sits in the Oval Office. It is about what is in the heart of every American. The time for anger and side taking must end. We need to find a way to speak without arguments and name-calling.

I’ll admit sometimes the person about to be at the helm of our nation, seems to react first and think later. That poses a challenge for those who don’t agree with him. Heck, it poses a challenge for me.

However, challenged or not this is where we are in our history and it is now up to us to determine how the next chapter will read. We are the authors and our actions and words write the story.

Don’t think I am suggesting we accept whatever comes in the name of “playing nice.” We must guard our most precious freedoms and rights at all costs. Still, we must find ways to work through our differences without resorting to hate-filled divisive interactions.

Some great movements toward righting wrongs happened without calls for violence. That is exactly what we celebrated on Monday, how one man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaking out for justice when he saw injustice changed the world. His words inspired action and made our country a better place for all of us.

So, perhaps our common ground is doing something, finding ways to continue making this a better place for everyone. Maybe our gift is using our voices or our pens to speak out against injustice. Others may volunteer in places that make a difference in the quality of life for the elderly, for those with special needs, the sick, the poor, animals who need protection…

Some might get involved in the political process and others will make a difference by simply committing to practice kindness. What we choose is not as important as making the choice to do something.

On Friday, a new president takes office. What happens after that day is an unknown for all of us and that is also a common ground we share. So let us hope the best for this incoming administration even as we commit to holding it to the principles that founded our nation.

And, let us find common ground and begin a conversation about how we work together to maintain our freedoms and insure a brighter future for all Americans.

Nancy Blackmon is a former newspaper editor and a yoga teacher.