The Golden Rule

Charlestown has a problem. No, I’m not talking about brown water or economic development (this time). Charlestown has a political problem.

When a woman must consider carefully who she sits beside at council meetings because her friendship with a Democrat marks her as an “enemy” to the Republicans she has always supported…

…when a concerned Democrat pulls a man aside after a meeting to warn him that laughing along with a Republican will make him look like “a Bob Hall supporter”…

…when citizens are afraid to attend council meetings or voice their concerns over new resolutions because they don’t want to face retribution…

…when we can no longer see past someone’s political affiliation to recognize the person within…

We have a problem.

The bi-partisan divide in Charlestown is hurting our community, our friendships, and our families. And we’ve been here before…

Around the time Charlestown was founded, legendary citizen Jonathan Jennings found himself at the center of a vicious and contentious political debate.[i] Jennings, who spoke against slavery in Indiana, found himself positioned against our first territorial governor, William Henry Harrison, who advocated for the politics and economic system of the plantation south. So intense was the hatred between these two sides that Jennings eventually challenged Harrison supporter and court clerk, Henry Hurst to a duel over an issue of slander and disagreements between the two parties sometimes resorted to physical blows.[ii] Although Hurst demurred and the duel never happened, this extreme reaction over political disagreement serves as an example of a system gone horribly wrong.

We need not continue in this path.

mahatmagandhi1We need to remember that civil disagreement is not a precursor for ending a relationship. In fact, disagreement and debate are a healthy part of our political process! We need to re-frame the purpose of disagreement. Instead of thinking that disagreement is a personal attack we should consider how healthy and respectful disagreement allows us to “define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”[iii] Engaging in disagreement in a respectful way allows me to speak out against policies that our mayor and council implement, while still greeting them with a cheerful smile when we pass in the produce section of the Jay C store. After all, there’s not a Republican Rite Aid or Democrat Dollar General…

This Friday, November 24, 2017, The City of Charlestown will Light Up for the yearly Christmas display. I’m asking everyone who can to come out in support of our city. Despite who you vote for, regardless of how you feel about city business, without regard to any of the things that divide us, come out! Let’s all come enjoy an evening of Thanksgiving for the blessings we have and for the hope of a future in which we can discuss our different opinions without name calling, hate, or personal attacks. Because I believe we can do it.

Golden-Rule-1I’ll be there. And if you come and find me, I’ll have a few small favors to pass out to serve as a token of cheer. For as we all know, a house divided against itself cannot stand so we should try, as much as we can, to do unto others the way we would have them do unto us.

Sources: 
[i] Wiki commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Jennings
[ii] John Northcutt, “Tippecanoe and Slavery Too: Jonathan Jennings, William Henry Harrison, and the Battle for Free Labor in Indiana, August 2017.
[iii] Bret Stephens, “The Dying Art of Disagreement,” The New York Times, September 24, 2017: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/24/opinion/dying-art-of-disagreement.html

Author: Treva Hodges

Resident of Charlestown, Indiana. Advocate.

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