Can there be anything more disheartening than listening to yet one more rendition of "back when I was a lad"? Memory persists though. Too many years observing the human condition provides the mind with fodder for commentary. The trick is to remember the bad, along with all of the good.
So having entered this strange territory they call mid-life, I find more than enough to look back on. The endless drumbeat of conflict. The perpetual horizon that defines all better futures. A timeline on which there was once, in my brief remembrance, a shared conversation. People who valued learning, and embraced a desire for the greater good through productive debate.
How many times do I now read a headline, peruse a Twitter feed, or watch a TV slugfest only to be astounded again by the seeming triumph of outrage over common good sense? To state a contrary opinion is to invite Armageddon. To hear a contrary opinion sets the hair on fire. A slams B and B punches back. The spectacle becomes the substance, and all else is lost.
There once was, in my home country of Canada, a political party with the incongruous moniker "Progressive Conservative". Yet this strange sounding combination did indeed find its place and its purpose, for a while. My parents were actual adherents, who aptly defined the principle in all its confounding imperfections. The lessons of history and worthy tradition should not be forgot. Our institutions, when kept strong, can be our guardians. Yet progress also requires a wider perspective that respects diversity and refuses to remain stagnant.
We can look inward and slam all attempts to dream new dreams. Or we can look outward and create them anew. Injustice is wrong, and should be made right. Real equality of opportunity is a value most might still agree on. The whole point of the grand experiment that America began is to reconcile difference just well enough to unleash the potential that resides in each human spirit. Time to drown the slammers out, by listening again.
Can we really return to such a place? I can't see why not. It isn't an accident of history that such experiments ever existed at all, and so still could. It is always in the will of ordinary wisdom that the most respected leaders are born. The realized vision of every citizen who looks beyond his local confines can help to build a better world again. Institutions are no better or worse than the people who create them and make them function. So raise up the best, instead of the worst, and we may yet find a way back to real conversations. This is our only way forward.
Even as a wandering observer, now in this country of greatest promise by the vagaries of choice and life's strange turnings, I remember still that country of my birth - in all its insecurities and achievements. I miss its calmer commitment to considered thought, even as I cherish the dynamism here. So I would not tell you to look to your northern neighbor for answers it hasn't yet found for itself. But do look beyond those borders that too often confine the American mind, to restrict its understanding. The options that might save us all are here, and there, and elsewhere also.
The quieter voices will often have much to say, when the slamming stops. Time to listen again.
Contributing Editor: Marie Ford Andrews
Born in Ontario, Canada in 1961. Hold degrees in Biochemistry and Education. Also a Canadian CPA with 20-years of experience as a tax auditor. Relocated to South Florida in August, 2016 to study law. Hope to stay doing cross-border legal work following graduation and admission to the Florida Bar in 2019. Have one son presently finishing B.A. in Political Science at same U.S. university and a daughter in her final year of law school back in Toronto. Life-long interest in politics, economics, citizenship and all forms of artistic expression.