We had hoped that with the departure of his predecessor from office, President Joe Biden’s call for Americans to turn down the temperature of their public rhetoric and work together to solve the nation’s problems would find a reception among people of all (or most) political stripes. It seems we hoped in vain.

In the last few weeks, we have heard from Waldo County residents exasperated by vitriol directed at their politician of choice by the other side. First it was a man from Islesboro who told us he was verbally attacked by a neighbor for objecting to the neighbor’s sign excoriating Donald Trump in vulgar language. Then it was a woman who was upset when she saw a sign in the town of Brooks treating Biden in the same coarse way.

The problem is not the signs: Freedom of speech means being free to offend with your speech, though it is worth noting that the Bill of Rights constrains only government. The problem is the depth of anger, the desire to inflame one’s opponents and the utter unwillingness to consider other points of view that lie behind the slogans, images and gutter language.

We do not mean to say all sides or all participants are equally guilty. Intentions matter. Values matter. Integrity matters. Whether you are advocating for someone less powerful than yourself or primarily for your own interests matters.

But we are all implicated when our society is facing monumental challenges — a planet that is warming, with devastating effects around the world and in our own backyard, a once-in-a-century global health crisis, a widening gulf between rich and poor — and we cannot find it within ourselves to stop bickering and come together to find a way through the difficulties we face.

Differences of opinion, of policy, of approach are the stuff of which the solutions we need are made, if they are grounded in a willingness to hear each other out, a love for the real ideals on which our country was founded and for all of its people, and a determination that what divides us will not blind us to the far more profound commonalities that bind us together.

If we cannot organize a bucket brigade when our national house is on fire, we will end up with nothing but charred timbers and ashes. Now is the time to man the hoses while there is still something to save.

May we stop yelling long enough to hear the approaching flames.

Tune in next week for Lobster Appreciation Week
Be sure to pick up your copies of The Courier-Gazette, The Camden Herald and The Republican Journal next week (Aug. 5) for our special “Lobster Appreciation Week” coverage.

We will have stories and photos from the lobster industry, an update from the Maine Lobster Festival, recipes, a lobster-related crossword, columns, and more. This is bound to be a collector’s edition.

filed under: