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Minnich: Beginning with inauguration, time to get this country back on track | COMMENTARY

The first thing you lose when you realize you’ve made a wrong turn is your self-confidence. Faith in yourself.

I think America is in that place right now. But this inauguration is an opportunity to reset our national GPS.

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With all the shouting about patriots and patriotism, treason and treachery, Jan. 20, 2021 was a day to pause and remember that there is no treason in differences that are addressed with respect for the will to hear as well as be heard.

The real enemy is not differences in ideology but in extremism that runs roughshod over good intentions and sincere efforts to address ways to make a positive difference through compromise without surrender.

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Rude dismissal of those who are not like us builds only enmity, not a platform for broad governance. Blind insistence that the other side is unworthy of a voice is destructive to lasting survival of our own visions.

America is a better nation than most in the world because we were better at adapting to change while holding on to the pillars of a constitutional structure. We have traditions of being free to reach, and quick to reach out.

Certainly, we have a flawed history because history is made by the actions of human beings. Greed, prejudice, intolerance and racism are woven into our culture as it is in all nations. Altruism eventually runs into the wall of one tribal barrier or another.

But even when decency was scarce, it was never denigrated as weakness to the extent it has been in recent years. Being strong is not synonymous with being ruthless. Winners become losers when they abandon compassion.

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The term “deplorables” is not a label we should put on human beings, but humans are continually showing themselves capable of deplorable acts, and we must be on constant watch that we do not cross the line.

Crossing the line in the name of the law quickly becomes police brutality. Crossing the line in defiance of police in their attempts to maintain law and order becomes total breakdown of social order.

I believe that the elevation of dramatic passion over the virtues of restraint in recent years contributes to the confrontations that divide us into warring factions.

It should be possible to have a good time at a football game rooting for your team and against the other without demonizing the fans on either side. More important is taking responsibility for not becoming one of the demons crossing that line.

Firm opinions about social changes and status can be held without making every day a life-or-death struggle for domination. Every social norm upheld today was once considered offensive to others in another moment in history.

We adjust with the application of decency and respect. We earn our self-respect by keeping our sense of decency, in our recognition of that stranger on the other side of the room as a human being.

I can relate to the visceral rejection of the jab from some guardian of the politically correct that gnaws at the core of those on today’s conservative right.

But I hear the voices of those who want to be part of the definition of the American ideal.

I was once a Republican; some conservatives called me a RINO. At first it offended me. In time, it was not an insult; it was a compliment, unintentional, but acknowledgment that I would rather celebrate faith in and not fear of different people.

This new president understands people and takes them as he finds them. He is competent, appoints expertise to leadership positions instead of rewarding cronies and supplicants, and promotes decency and democratic values of working through challenges. What can be more American than that?

That was the course set by the people who founded this unique nation. May we stay on the road and out of the ditches and potholes of absolutism and authoritarianism.

Dean Minnich made his living in covering news and civic affairs and served two terms as a county commissioner. His column runs every Thursday. His email address is dminnicwestm@gmail.com.

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