By Bill Robinson
The Founding Fathers didn’t plan it this way, but Veterans Day couldn’t come at a better time than five days after a divisive and sometimes bitter national election.
The selection of the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November as the date for federal elections was placed in the Constitution which was ratified in 1789.
Then 130 years later, the nation began to commemorate the service and sacrifice of its veterans on Nov. 11, the anniversary of the World War I armistice. After War World II, what had been called Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day.
Veterans Day has turned into a weeklong celebration with flags, banners, school programs and solemn ceremonies. And, as Abraham Lincoln famously said, it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
However, we can all honor our veterans every day by conducting ourselves as citizens in a manner that is worthy of their sacrifice. If America for them was worth fighting and dying for, is not America for us worth putting aside personal or partisan interest to seek the common good?
I have heard many people complain about recent election results, both national and local. But, without the victories our veterans won on the battlefield, there would be no election results to cheer or complain about.
Remember that the Founders created a diverse system of checks and balances that denies absolute power to the winners of elections. If government could act only with broad-based consensus, they reasoned, it would be less likely to act foolishly or unjustly.
Would it not honor our veterans ? those who came home and those who did not ? to accept the will of the electorate and work together with mutual respect for the greater good?
James Madison, one of the Constitution’s principal architects and co-author of the Federalist Papers, would be smiling if he could see what the electorates, nationally and locally, have done with the system he helped design.
In Washington, the Democrats control the presidency and the Senate, but the Republicans control the House of Representatives.
In Frankfort, a Democrat sits in the governor’s chair and his party controls the House of Representatives. But the Republicans control the Senate.
In Richmond, there appears to be no longer an obvious majority on the city commission.
In all three cases, progress will be possible only if people of opposing viewpoints compromise and reach common ground.
During this, as well as past elections, partisans have exclaimed that a victory by their opponents would lead the nation or the community to ruin, or even usher in the end of civilization. For as long as I can remember, I have heard otherwise rational people take leave of their senses during election season and utter such rash statements.
I think we would do well to heed the advice that Richard Nixon offered in his first inaugural address.
“In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.
“We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another ? until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”
Some would argue, perhaps correctly, that Nixon made those statements cynically. But, I think their truth remains, regardless of his sincerity, especially what he said in his conclusion:
“Our destiny offers, not the cup of despair, but the chalice of opportunity. So let us seize it, not in fear, but in gladness - and, ‘riders on the earth together,’ let us go forward, firm in our faith, steadfast in our purpose, cautious of the dangers; but sustained by our confidence in the will of God and the promise of man.”