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Show more respect in 2021

Dennis Sommers, Minot

Yet another friendly text message greeted me today – perhaps similar to those many have found in their “in boxes” during 2020. Included was a link to a “must see” video monologue about politically charged events about which, unfortunately, even our grandchildren are aware of these days. Gone are the times when the acrimony of political wrangling, shenanigans and hypocrisy occurred off-stage. With credit to 24 hour-a-day news, it’s surprising folks have time for pleasant conversation at home or work. Anger, disagreement and worry over global warming, whose lives matter, names of public schools and buildings, who isn’t wearing a mask and, oh yes, politics, are often at the core of interactions with those around us now. It’s likely we each know a friend or relative consumed with the emotion and worry of it all.

Admittedly, the proximity of the train to the tracks may provide justification for concern. No one wants a train wreck. However, worry that many have over today’s health, finances, justice, politics and plethora of issues beyond our control risks not only our own mental health, but also the loving relationships we desire with friends and family.

My mother was a wise woman, though my recognition of the fact was less evident in youth. I recently pondered a half dozen or so topics Mother commented on during her lifetime where wisdom now shines brighter than when she spoke the words. One such statement was, “I don’t worry about things over which I have no control.” It was a simple statement. At the time she uttered the words years ago, it was in response to my concern she was incorrectly worried about her financial situation. That day has not been forgotten. Now, witnessing someone close to us struggle and worry about equal justice under the law and politics, we again can’t help but be concerned. [note: concern might only be another way to say worry.]

Since Mother shared her philosophy, I have done my best to adopt it as my own. More recently, things that aggravate me (today’s political environment for example) has joined control over. It isn’t wise to remain oblivious to political happenings But, worry and anger about them has its own consequences, risking sacrifice of mental health in addition to strained relationships with the friends and family we care about most.

Perhaps a day will return when political opinions can be shared with more reason and less acrimony. Both have been ever-present in politics, of course. To enhance revenue, numerous news programs now abandon simply informing the public in favor of adding commentary that adversely magnifies public viewpoints and emotions while escalating worry and anger. Social media has further amplified these effects, compelling some to inform all others of the only possible correct point of view with an email and the “ding” of a text or twitter feed.

In 2021 we might all do well to revisit important lessons from our parents – perhaps to include tuning out social media and the “news” while adopting more tolerance for things we cannot control. And, although the memory of her saying so is missing, Mother might well have added, “and show respect and value in differing points of view – as well as toward those who share them.”

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