What Will It Take to Bring Americans Together?
Last night I had a dream that I died and was weirdly attending my own funeral, sort of like the movie Ghost, but with better acting.
It was touching to see old friends and new, coworkers, family, and even people I never expected to be there (read ex-girlfriends) at my funeral. Like most dreams, this one ended unfulfilled as just when I was about to hear my eulogy given by someone I couldn’t make out, I woke up.
The circumstances of how and why I died elude me. I can only guess it was some incident involving bacon.
When I woke up, I wondered like most people about my legacy should I die right now. I also wondered about life after me. The lives of my friends and family and how each one of them would soldier on. Mostly though, I wondered about how this country would fare once I was gone.
It’s not surprising I had these thoughts upon waking after what can only be described as another tumultuous weekend for our country that is growing more and more divided each day. The thought occurred to me at that moment that I should write my own eulogy, just in case, because I would not personally want to add to the sadness, but to offer hope; for my family, for my friends, for this country.
And so, I wrote. There were many tears. If you’ve never written your own eulogy I suggest everyone do it every 5 years. The therapy alone is worth the sadness, the realness, the reality of the shortness of life.
Here, is my eulogy:
Family and friends, it’s tough to see you gathered under these circumstances. The last time I saw so many of you in the same room was for my wedding. What an amazing time we had. A different time for sure. It all seems so far away even though it’s only been 5 years.
These times are not so amazing, to say the least. They are trying times. Angry times. And sad times. I know many of you are here to mourn my loss and I appreciate you being here for me to support my family during this difficult time.
Most of you will return home to the daily trials and tribulations I know you face. Whether it’s struggling to put food on the table or to pay back the $2.4 million you racked up in student loans, worries about the security of this country, the temperament of our president, or the lack of faith in our government as a whole, this time cannot be easy.
These will be the things on your minds soon enough, not my death, and I worry for each of you. I worry for this great country. I’m sorry for adding to your pain. I’m a selfish jerk, I know.
But before you leave and head back to wherever it is you are from, I want each of you to look around this room. I have confidence that you are a very diverse group, equal parts white, black, Asian, Hispanic, men, women, northerners, southerners, Republicans, Democrats and yes, even a few independents sprinkled within.
You are hardworking people. Caring people. I know this because I would only associate with such people and was never one who made friends just because they were “like me.” Bottom line: you’re not basic.
And yet, in this time of great division you are all in one room today united in my death. If I were there I would smile to see all of you together, but that smile probably couldn’t mask the underlying sadness I would have because the moment you leave here, many of you will go back to being enemies.
Not enemies in battle. Not yet anyway, but enemies on Facebook, enemies at town halls and the ballot box, and enemies of thought.
You will call each other snowflakes, racists, lazy, stupid, and inevitably many worse things, I fear.
Some of you are no longer friends with each other even though you were inseparable in college. Some of you are fighting within your own families because your values are different.
Every incident that plays out in the media immediately asks each of you to take a side.
Kneeling during the anthem? Pick a side. Police brutality? Pick a side. Immigration? Pick a side. There is no gray anymore. Just figuratively and literally black and white.
America has turned into playground kickball, where every member must get picked to play against each other. And why I ask you? If we are all hurting? If this country is failing a large amount of us, then why are you enemies of each other?
Why are poor white people and poor black people not holding hands demanding more together? Why are big cities on coasts and small towns in the middle so at odds with each other?
Now don’t get me wrong, this country is great. As most of you know, I served my time in the military to protect its greatness. Many of you have done the same.
Like many great civilizations before it, America is not perfect. But it is great because of what it stands for. Its ideals. Its aspirations. That hasn’t changed, at least I hope not.
Like many great empires though, this one is being tested. That’s okay. It wouldn’t be great if it couldn’t withstand a few tests of faith and confidence. This test is turning brother against brother, friends against friends, Captain America against Iron man.
I refuse to believe that each of you, my friends and family, can hate each other. Cannot see each other’s pain. Cannot see yourself somewhere in the eyes of someone different than you.
I imagine where I am right now it’s easier than ever to see that the divide between you is even more fictitious and contrived than I ever imagined on Earth.
Wherever I am at, there is a good chance I’m yelling and screaming at you like an old man watching football unable to affect the play but yelling nonetheless.
And what I am yelling is simple. You are not each other’s enemies. You may disagree. You may not understand each other’s unique needs. But you are all Americans, and you are all my friends.
So, leave here ever vigilant of who the enemy really is. They are not immigrants or people who don’t look like you. They are not Muslims or people who have different ideologies and religions than you. They are not Democrats or Republicans; city folk or country folk.
Terrorists, foreign or domestic, are your enemies. Anyone trying to drive a wedge in the true America is your enemy. Anyone attempting to divide Americans is your enemy. Anyone who is trying to disrupt the principles of fair elections and Democracy is your enemy.
Don’t wait until you are too poor, too hungry, too war-torn to realize who the real enemy was all along. I’m counting on each of you as my last death wish.
I’ll be watching, and like any movie where I know who the good guys and bad guys are, I’ll be rooting for the good guys even though I already know you will win. Now go off and eat all the bacon you can so I can see each of you soon.