Letter to the Editor: Our Commons Bonds Must Be Strengthened

America is a family. Like all families, we do not choose our relatives, but we are bound together by all that we share, including a long history. Our history is filled with astonishing accomplishments and horrific pain and suffering. Like all families, we have members of whom we are proud and others we would rather not mention. We cannot, however, deny our bond.

So, what do we do when members of the family are misled? What do we do when they violate the law or endanger the family? What do we do if they develop an addiction or are swept up with a group of bad actors? What do we do if they embrace beliefs we find abhorrent? What do we do if they come to believe our family itself is at fault?

Perhaps tough love is part of the answer. Tough love is one part understanding and one part consequence. We seek to understand before we seek to be understood. We recognize our fallibility. We act as we would have them act. We ask what it is they need to hear to know they have been heard. We do not shield them from the just consequences of their actions. If their goal or the consequences of their actions are to destroy the family or its members, we stop them.

We cannot, however, simply isolate them from the family or deny their membership. We cannot let our anger or shame blind us to our shared humanity and familial bonds. We must acknowledge our common history, common experience, common principles, common failings, common aspirations and common accomplishments. 

They are Americans just as we are Americans. Their grievances and beliefs are justified in their minds just as our rejection of their beliefs and actions is justified in ours. If we do not discover and address that which generates and promotes their reality and ours, we will not change or neutralize it. If we do not strengthen our common bonds, we will be sundered. 

It is said that it is almost impossible to change someone’s beliefs. We can, however, change what someone knows.

John M. Rybski

Algoma, Wisconsin