As we approach another holiday season, I am struck by the reality that there is just too much hatred in this country, and I ponder over the reality that we may not survive as a nation if we continue to be divisive and hurtful to those that we have come to demonize.
Our society, our politics, our daily news, our personal behavior have become one of “winning at all costs” and viewing others that we don’t approve of as “terrorists,” “invaders” or worse; and our morality toward those we view as less than human or beneath us is at an all-time low.
One of the first glaring truths that I learned while working in corrections was that even in a closed society like prison, there are those that will feed on individuals who they perceive to be weaker, younger or just unable or unwilling to stand up for themselves. These same individuals prey on others for financial or physical gain and derive a level of pleasure from doing so. They are simply the bullies of society and like all bullies, they like to stay hidden and unknown to all but their intended victims.
Social media in whatever form or venue has created a network of bullies who anonymously attack others who they consider un-American, have opposite opinions, or who they can personally target with their hate-filled beliefs. Recent discussions of abolishing false, threatening, or demeaning postings might improve these sites, but my guess is that I would be wrong, because it is all about financial gain and these businesses will continue to allow anyone to post the most dishonest, disgusting, terrible comments for no other reason than to torment and terrorize others. It is all about the bottom line.
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We used to be a nation that exemplified fair and honest treatment for all and acceptance of all people who wished to come here and make a better life. In fact, my ancestors were part of those pioneers that helped settle this state, and all that they asked for was an equal chance at success. They helped make the nation great. Not what is printed on a cap, but through honest hard work. They did it through blood, sweat and sometimes tears; but they gave their all because they truly loved this country of ours.
If you stop to think about the truth behind the story of Thanksgiving, it is the symbolism portrayed of native people who welcomed strangers to this new land and whose generosity helped these new arrivals to not only thrive and prosper but ultimately survive. Whether this event ever really occurred or not, it is a lesson that we as individuals and as a nation should be thankful for and perpetuate.
A recent article in the newspaper highlighted the unfortunate story of a local couple who through a series of terrible circumstances lost most everything due to medical debt and ultimately landed in homelessness. We can all do better when it comes to those less fortunate.
I am just as guilty as others who often think only about themselves and the little inconsequential problems that occur. My wife and I are fortunately in a very good place financially and have a lot to be thankful for, but we both also grew up very poor, and even though we had hard times we persevered. That was the driving force that propelled us to never be poor again. But fate can be a cruel mistress and take everything away in a heartbeat.
So, as you and I gather with family and others during this Thanksgiving season, let us all be cognizant of all that we have to be grateful for, and to realize that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Bob Cartledge was born and raised in Bismarck and lived here most of his life. He is retired after working close to 30 years for the North Dakota State Penitentiary, where he supervised the Treatment Unit. He was recently a member of the city’s Special Assessment Task Force. He and his wife were therapeutic foster parents for over 20 years with Path of North Dakota. He is an avid hunter, especially upland birds, and a part-time blogger.