Political debates – both those between the candidates and those among our fellow citizens – have been especially bitter and contentious this year. The divide of opinions is often deep and wide, making conversation difficult. Many families have become internally split between two antagonistic positions, causing tension at family gatherings.
Given these strains, the journey of the space shuttle Endeavour in Los Angeles has been a welcome experience, drawing a diverse community together in united celebration of its achievements. I was one of thousands of Angelenos waiting on the streets of L.A. this weekend for the chance to see Endeavour moving toward its final destination at a science museum.
During the five hours that I stood waiting, I was not a separate individual but an integral part of the group waiting with me – Blacks, Anglos, Hispanics, Asians, adults, children, teens, grandparents, Christians, Jews, Muslims – all within a few feet, a bit of the complex tapestry making up our city and our country. We shared stories as we waited and did what we could to take care of each other – distributing water, offering seats to the elderly, giving children a vantage viewing point up front, saving places when someone needed to briefly leave, working together to gather information from the Internet about the progress of the shuttle on its route, singing together. And applauding as one when the shuttle finally appeared.
We had created connections and formed a supportive community, if only for a few hours. Despite the differences in our cultures, we had focused instead on our similarities and appreciation of one another. Those feelings of cohesion and unity carried over to generate a positive attitude, affecting our outlook on the challenges ahead, even as we drifted away after the Endeavour passed.
Let’s hope we all shift in this direction as our elections come to a head and decisions are made. The space shuttle had heat shields to protect it from the immense and dangerous heat of re-entry; through respect, we have the ability to protect our relationships from the negative effects of anger and dissention. We can move forward with the determination of Endeavour if we remember to value each other and allow for our differences of opinion.