Regardless of your race, gender or party registration we would all have to admit General Election 2016 has been contentious and divisive. Politics has truly brought out the worst in many people. Yet, the day after is inevitable and how shall we now live? I love Rocky Mount and rural Eastern North Carolina. My millennial son, unlike many his age, has decided to start his life here. My daughter is an eleventh grader at Nash-Early College High School. My 83 year-old mother enjoys her senior years here. My oldest son and my dad are both buried in Nash County. Our church has made a multi-million dollar investment to provide the city and region with an anchor asset to provide leadership in human, economic, and community development. So, my commitment to this area is undeniable. The question is, “What do we do next?” As a leader in this city, I am personally troubled and quite frankly convicted that I live in a more divisive city today than I did in 2005 when I arrived. We must change this unfortunate narrative. Like a family surrounded by well wishers, prayers, food, and support during a funeral, the day after will come when all that support is gone and they must learn how to move on. In a few days, the political signs will be pulled up, commercials will be replaced with the next advertisement, new junk mail will fill our mailboxes and life must go on. Here are some thoughts on moving on:
Respect the office. Disagree all you want with the President, Governor, Mayor, or Dog Catcher, but honor the office and the person in it. I am a Christian and we are taught scripturally to pray for and to respect those who govern over us.
Reevaluate your allegiances. The last time I checked, when we pledged allegiance it was, “to the flag of the United States of America.” That means our allegiance is not to a party or even to politics, but rather to the best practices of the people in our community.
Recognize opponents are not enemies. Our enemies are unemployment, health disparity, crime, injustice, poverty NOT the guy across the street, the person sitting on the School Board, County Commissioner, or State House Representative who isn’t “of my party.” Our problems and issues require collective IQ and the engagement of people who think differently to ensure there is always a “self correcting” measurement in our policies.
Reprioritize character. Partisan political purposes should never cause us to abandon the importance of a leader’s character. If our community is to ever reach the height of her potential, it is necessary that we have the ability to admit wrong, even when it is a friend or someone of my ilk, class, race, or political party. Our vote to ignore character will outlive any Supreme Court Justice, HB2, income inequality, and regressive tax structures. ALL of us are wrong sometimes … just admit it and be willing to change.
Reconsider your spokesmen. Newsflash - Fox News nor MSNBC nor CNN live in the Twin Counties. Our worldview and our community view must be broader than the ramblings of self appointed spokespeople who have no dog to hunt in our local education, economies, or families.
Render solutions and not merely criticism. This is hard work, if you can get it. My family struggles to agree on what to have for dinner or what movie to watch and we actually love each other. Imagine making complex decisions in the public square. Nurture the art of compromise by beginning each discourse with your own solution, which becomes our “admission ticket” into the conversation.
As one of many leaders in this community, join me in making the Twin Counties better by agreeing to this or other basic rules of conduct after Election Day.
James D. Gailliard
Pastor, Word Tabernacle Church
President, The Impact Center