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  • Lisa McMichael

Return to Civility

It’s a typical Monday morning for me during COVID. I work from home, tackling insurance issues and seeing clients via telehealth. As I browsed the news during a break, I was reminded that it is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Seventy nine years ago in 1941, service men stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, were suddenly stunned by deafening artillery; a surprise attack resulted in a death toll of 2,403 with 1,178 injured.

The attack stunned the world and woke the United States from arguments to remain isolated from the world’s affairs. The following day, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, and we were ushered into World War II.

On a sleepy farm in NW Ohio, my eleven-year old mother resided as the youngest of seven children. Her only brother would soon leave his tranquil farm life and head to a global war. My mother remembers the anguished fears of her parents, that their son would be wounded or never return. It was my mom’s job to keep track of some of the rationed food in her home. At the end of the war, her beloved brother stepped back through the farm house door, a man changed forever by the ravages of war and the horrific scenes that never leave the memories of those who witnessed them. Men and women everywhere -- yesterday and today -- leave their families, risk their lives, and sacrifice their own safety and peace for ours.

I’m not a fan of war. While we were forced into WWII, later wars have seemed more ambiguous, and their purpose and meaning lost in politics and unclear reasons. What deeply stirs my soul is the sacrifice of so many for the sake of others. Regardless of your beliefs, your convictions, and your personal feelings about war, there remains a persistent invitation to honor those who have committed to the protection of our country and currently risk their lives for our freedom.

When I walk in the morning, my thoughts wander to gratitude for the country I live in and the freedoms I enjoy, especially as a woman. I live in safety in my neighborhood; I am free to believe as I want; I have freedom of religion and press. I have the right to vote. Last month I saw an old picture of a group of women in jail clothes. The women were arrested and beaten for protesting for the right to vote in the United States. That right wasn’t earned until 1920, only 10 years before my mother was born. As the saying goes “freedom isn’t free.” I showed my daughter the picture to remind her that freedom is bought with a price and must be defended.

The call on Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is to come together to help heal the divide of this country, to remind us of the values we hold in common. The election is over. There is no evidence that the election was stolen or unfair. But there is daily evidence of hunger, child abuse, and lack of access to healthcare. America has prospered from the sacrifice of those who served and from parents who raise children to be conscientious citizens. Let us not squander this wealth of freedom but commit to the issues that deserve the attention. Let us return to civility, the ability to agree to disagree with mutual respect. Let us elect leaders who are able to exemplify these virtues and demonstrate them ourselves. And in doing so, we will pay homage to those who served and sacrificed, both past and present.

UPDATE: 1/10/21

My heart grieves for the events that unfolded on January 6th, when our sacrosanct capitol was stormed, protestors sent our lawmakers to the floor in fear, and five people died in the rioting. A smoldering fire, fanned for years by words that created division and promoted inequality and hatred, burst into flames. The flames swallowed lives, singed our democratic process, and tarnished our image as the democratic example for the world. This unconscionable action has highlighted extremist groups and the danger they pose to America.

As I have mentioned, our freedom was bought with a price. It is our duty to preserve our country, our freedom, and mandate to provide “liberty and justice for ALL.” Let us do our part, whatever that may be, to promote the values we hold dear and to stand

for equality, unity, and social justice.


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