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We are more alike than different

Bald eagles can glide through the air at more than 30 miles per hour and achieve dive speeds up to nearly 100 miles per hour. These admired birds of prey boast wingspans of 6 to 7 ½ feet to power through the sky. And yet, the eagle is rendered flightless if just one of the wings is injured.

People get so caught up with the differences between the left wing and the right wing that we forget that the eagle needs both to fly.

Think about that in the context of the United States of America.

As a local newspaper, L’OBSERVATEUR generally avoids reporting on national topics. We focus on the stories that larger media overlooks – the influential teacher in the community retiring after 30 years, the neighbor who raises money to pay for a local child’s medical expenses, and so on and so forth.

The exception to the rule is when national topics influence us on a community level. The 2020 presidential race is a national topic, a state topic and a local topic, because the leadership of our country affects us all.

It was clear that St. John the Baptist Parish voters were passionate about making their voices heard in the Nov. 3 election.

At the conclusion of early voting this year, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced record-breaking turnout numbers. In St. John Parish, 10,929 voters cast early ballots at the Edgard Courthouse and the St. John Parish Government Complex, compared to 5,450 early voters in the 2016 presidential election. This marked an increase of 200.53 percent!

Statewide, 58.46 percent of voters opted for Donald Trump. In St. John Parish, however, 63.37 percent voted blue in favor of Joe Biden.

Let’s go back to the analogy of the eagle. While I am not a fan of the two-party system, party politics are nothing new in American history.

According to the Library of Congress, political parties emerged along with the ratification of the Constitution in 1787. Alexander Hamilton led the Federalists and advocated for a strong central government, while Thomas Jefferson and the Anti-Federalists (also known as the Democratic-Republican Party) valued states’ rights over centralized power.

Much like the rural and urban divide we see today, commercial sectors of the country favored the Federalists and agrarian communities leaned Democratic-Republican.

The 1800 presidential election was highly emotional and deeply divided Americans to the point where it was referred to as the “Revolution of 1800.” It took a contingent election from Congress to name Thomas Jefferson the third U.S. president. After the election, Jefferson called for the nation to cool down and come together in unity.

In Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural address on March 4, 1801, he said, “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists.”

The 2020 presidential election was regarded by some as the most important election of our time and a “battle for the soul of America.” Both parties believe themselves to be the morally just side, according to the posts I see on Facebook.
After Joe Biden was projected to win, he addressed the nation with a call for unity that harks back to Thomas Jefferson’s words.

“For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself,” Biden said.

“But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again. To make progress, we need to stop seeing our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies, they are Americans.”

On Thanksgiving Day in 2016, Donald Trump said, “It is my prayer, that on this Thanksgiving, we begin to heal our divisions and move forward as one country, strengthened by a shared purpose and very, very common resolve.”

Have these speeches year after year made any impact? To me, the country feels terribly divided, but I still have hope.

I stand for an America where every person is created equal and has access to opportunities for success. I believe in justice and standing up for what you believe in, but I don’t believe in condemning political parties that make up half of our population.

We don’t all have to agree on every issue (because we never will). But we need to work together. We have to care about our country and each other to succeed as a nation.

I’ve seen flashes of unity in 2020. It’s a matter of saying, “We don’t like the state of the world right now, but we are going to support each other through it.” I saw it in the community rallying around healthcare heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic. I saw it in the St. John Sheriff’s Office and the people of St. John Parish coming together for a Juneteenth march and celebration.

It’s these moments that remind us that, as human beings and Americans, we are more alike than different.

 

Brooke R. Cantrelle is news editor for L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at brooke.robichaux@lobservateur.com.