The Journal Gazette
Friday, September 10, 2021 1:00 am

Decision time

Are we at last ready to summon our better angels?

Kevin Boyd

Waiting in the left turn lane from Coldwater Road to eastbound Coliseum Boulevard, the green arrow came on and both lanes began to move.

One of the turn lanes, the one closer to straight-ahead traffic, cleared first and I witnessed a truck pull into the turn lane from about four cars back. I assumed the driver wanted to make a left and realized the need to change to the legal turn lane

Instead, the driver sped up in the left-turn lane and then whipped right to run the red light and go straight, thus displaying a wanton disregard for traffic law, public safety and common courtesy.

Perhaps you have witnessed a similar display.

Our daily news is filled with accounts of escalating incivility. Witnessing school board meetings in this nation and our own community, we see, and are rightfully shocked and saddened by, the vitriol on display.

You would think parents are being asked to lay their children as a bodily sacrifice on a flaming altar. No, they are being asked to have their child wear a mask to help mitigate what has proven to be a life-threatening and highly communicable disease.

At worst, a mask is a minor inconvenience that evidence proves leads to a major good. At best, it will prevent a teacher, staff member or child from getting a disease. Yet, school board meetings have become confrontational with shouts, unmitigated rudeness, disrespect, and even threats and acts of violence. What is going on?

Are we satisfied we have allowed seething anger, mistrust of the other and a toxic narcissism to erode the bonds of community? Do we negate the value of concern for the common good? Have we forever withdrawn into opposing camps and sacrificed the higher ideal of unity?

We scream our slogans, for the voice that is the loudest must surely be right. We embrace our conspiracies, secure in the false comfort of circular arguments, false equivalences and “alternative facts” that prove we, and only we, were right all the time.

We raise our middle finger to those once understood as neighbors and friends.

Will we abandon any thought that good persons may reasonably disagree but do not have to become disagreeable? Do we discard to the trash heap of history the ideals of community and common good? Shall fear, distrust, anger and the idolatry of the false god “me” continue to tear at our families, our friendships, our community and our nation?

We must choose.

Will we dare to live the dream of vital unity and a vibrant concern for the greater common good? Do we have the courage to stand up and face the bullies who want it their own way, shouting down and threatening any who disagree?

Will we seek out and listen to voices of compassion, science and civil responsibility, or will we listen to the voices encouraging division, distrust and toxic narcissism?

Abraham Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, called a nation to remember the bonds of unity, saying: “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

We shall either heed the calling of our better angels, or our demons shall destroy us. Today, the decision is upon us all. 

Kevin Boyd, a Fort Wayne resident, is a retired Presbyterian minister.

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