Among my fondest memories are days when I and fellow students spent hours in the school cafeteria debating the ills of the world and issues we felt were damaging to our well-being. Sometimes those debates got pretty heated but that didn't stop us from returning to that table knowing that ultimately we could agree to disagree.
Of course there have always been riots and demonstrations in the streets when injustices became overwhelming, but a generation of young people believed that peace was possible. Trouble is even with all their rhetoric about changing the establishment peacefully, they fell into the trap and spawned more demonstrations and riots. Somewhere they lost the belief that peace is attainable through peaceful means. To many debates have become vendettas and tearing the opponent down.
We grew up and our beliefs gave rise to a culture where we believe we have the right to tell others how to believe and what they can do with their private lives. They matured to and became adults who hold vendettas against the President, threaten to secede from the Union, willingly threaten to bring the country to its knees over debt ceilings, let the country fall over the "fiscal cliff", and threaten to secede from the Union because we don't like the outcome of democratic processes.
What happened to agreeing to disagree and working together toward common ground? When did "my way or the highway" become the law of the land? What happened to democracy where my personal rights end where yours begin.
I'm a staunch Democrat and while there are times when I do disagree with a specific president, even sometimes the one I voted for, I have learned that the President is not a magician. His hands are tied by the balance of government. Studying history I have seen that there are truly great Republican leaders — Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower to name a few — even as there truly reprehensible Republicans who will do anything in the name of greed and power. But then the same is true of Democrats.
I consider myself a staunchly moral and ethical person but I have learned that I'm not always right and I have no right or authority to tell you what to believe or how to live your life. My rights do, in fact, end where yours begin.
Democracy and human rights are a messy business. Being a human being requires give and take – living and letting live. And, while I may not agree with you on everything (or very much at all), I still believe we can come to agreement without tearing each other down. I do believe that it is critical to work together for the common good because if we don't…if we continue to insist that "I'm always good and you're always evil because you don't agree with me" we're going to find ourselves with no democracy and the peace we, as youngsters, longed for will be no more. The day I've eradicated your beliefs and rights, I will have none either.