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AnnMarie McLeod Daring to imagine the ‘what if’

January 13, 2019

2018 churned with political and social controversies, tragic violence, natural disasters and escalating anger. Brutal social media exchanges, sexual assault charges and immigration policies heightened tensions and dominated public discourse. All of it highlighted critical questions related to US culture and government, to understandings of what is fair and just, and to how freedom and equality are defined in 21st century America. Most of all, 2018 demonstrated that human frailty and limitations distort the ideals and hopes wrapped into the words, “We the people of these United States...”

And so 2018 invites consideration of what 2019 could look like for America. What if individuals decided to embrace Rosa Parks’ reasoning that we are meant to be role models for one another? What if we were able to think about the weight of that concept, to consider that each of us has a responsibility to the others? Suppose individuals trusted the idea that active participation in society is essential for the success of the whole. How could that change lives? How could it re-define personal choices and public direction?

What if our political leaders dared to embrace civility in discourse? What if the name-calling and labeling, accusations and blame-placing was dropped in favor of serious examination of the real issues facing American society? It would require intellectual strength and emotional courage to set aside the explosive rhetoric of the past. It would challenge both politicians and constituents to embrace new responsibilities for personal and public interactions. That alone has a multitude of possibilities.

What if wrestling with problem-solving became the mantra of Congress and power politics of both parties yielded to a clear and deep sense of the collective good? Talk about practical solutions? Truly collaborate with one another? Could compromise actually become part of public life in significant and meaningful ways?

“We, the people of these United States...” are the words that actually knit our multi-ethnic and racial society into one restless whole. What if those words were heard and heeded? Could divisive rhetoric yield to new levels of mutual appreciation for one another? Would it be possible to hear and learn one another’s stories and discover empathy for the suffering that marks every human journey? Would it be possible to see one another as companions in a rapidly changing society rather than as threats to each other?

We are a society of dreamers. From the Founding Fathers to imagination enthusiasts like Einstein and Disney, every facet of American life has been marked by those who could see what was and envision something more, something better.

Voices like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. have called us to look at who we are and where we could be as opposed to where we are. It is 2019. It is time to dare to choose to be different, to be better. After all, we are the people.

AnnMarie McLeod is a resident of Danbury.

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