Social media is swamped with either/or questions. Some are frivolous – do you like blue or green? Cats or dogs? Summer or fall? Chocolate or vanilla?

The ones that make me nuts are those that are meant to rile up the left or the right, and make no sense. A recent one I saw was something like, “What do you support: health care for veterans or illegal immigrants?”

Almost every one of us on all sides of our many political fences would say that we need quality, accessible health care for our veterans. Supporting our veterans is essential, but it’s not contingent upon immigration issues. It’s not an either/or.

In a throwback to the volatile 1960s, today we hear the chant, “America — love it or leave it!” That’s another either/or that makes no sense and should not be used as an accusation that someone who criticizes U.S. policies or practices is somehow unpatriotic.

We love our children completely despite their flaws and foibles. We don’t expect them to be perfect and we do everything we can to help them find their way to a prosperous and rewarding life.

We can do the same for our country.

We can be devoted patriots and still have deep concerns about how migrant children are being treated at the Mexican border and hope for a better way.

We can be Christians and still advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ community.

We can support and respect our police officers and also understand the concerns and fears facing the African American community.

We can promote our local businesses while favoring ways to increase wages and minimum benefits for all.

It’s possible to be a feminist and not fret that those round things in the street are called manholes.

We can be concerned about climate change but still endorse common-sense regulations that will not choke an industry.

We can honor our nation’s veterans and also believe that the Pentagon’s spending must be held accountable.

These things do not have to be mutually exclusive.

We can stand proudly in front of the American flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and still respect the person who feels an obligation to stay silent to protest injustices.

The city of St. Louis Park got caught up in one of those vicious either/or situations with its discussion of whether or not to say the Pledge of Allegiance at its council meetings. The city’s leaders did not deserve the nationwide accusations of being un-American. Much of the uproar came from outsiders, who turned the subsequent discussions into a circus with a message that sounded like, “Either you go back to reciting the pledge or you are traitors!”

Wrong. Outsiders do not know that St. Louis Park is about as diverse as it gets and is a city that has embraced its differences for decades. From its early days to becoming a haven for the Jewish community to its current multi-national look with influxes of Hispanic and Somalian immigrants, this is a community that has worked very hard to be inclusive. As a former resident and editor in the community for 14 years, I believe this is a city that did not deserve that brouhaha.

I long for a country where we can discuss critical issues without stooping to insults, name-calling and threats.

Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has received extensive taunts and insults for her outspoken views. Again, it’s not an either/or situation. We can respect her status as a duly elected member of Congress and disagree with her on many issues. Whatever happened to: “Thank you, Congresswoman Omar, for your comments. I do not agree and this is why.” That’s called debating the issues, not debasing the individual.

Back in the 1960s, we used to respond to the “love it or leave it” chant with, “America — fix it or forget it.”

We need to replace “or” with “and.” How about: “America — love it and fix it.”

We are 15 months away from Election Day 2020. Let’s replace some of the ugliness with a whole lot of listening and civil conversation.

Peggy Bakken is a former executive editor and a columnist for APG-East Central Minnesota. Reactions welcome: peggy.bakken@ecm-inc.com.

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