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To overcome our divisions, we must start with ourselves


By Editorial Board

In a statement delivered during a recent school board meeting, the president of the Sto-Rox teacher’s union lamented to the leaders in attendance about how “there’s no more working together.”

Putting aside for now whatever problems Sto-Rox is currently going through, this phrase describes the situation in so many other schools, governments and agencies with equal accuracy – locally and nationally.

Congress has for years set the tone from the top down, teaching us to see our tax dollars as nothing more than bargaining chips within a partisan trench warfare scenario most of us feel we never subscribed to.

Locally, it appears things are no better.

Each week around Pittsburgh and its western suburbs we learn of new feuds emerging between officials elected to serve the public, old spats resurfacing among rival stakeholders who promised to work together on a common vision for the community, personnel divisions threatening a public service funded by tax dollars...

In a particularly unfortunate example, local firefighters are only too willing to talk – during off-the-record conversations with friends – about the tangled chain of loyalties and rivalries linking and dividing the various volunteer departments. With mutual aid a must in this era of declining funding and membership, how long will it be until such quarreling costs someone their life or their home?

Divisions run just as fiercely through the general public, though, showing up in impassioned squabbles over issues like mask-wearing in schools, where hysterical parents sometimes seem more absorbed in their own emotions than the interests of their children.

Of course, deeply entrenched problems never come packaged with easy solutions, but, as a society of free individuals, we can all at least begin by checking ourselves.

As individuals, we can choose to chase social media rabbit holes through hyper-partisan galaxies, or we can choose to seek out informed reporting from a non-aligned source like the Associated Press. (Better yet, we at times can choose to remember not all life is political, and enjoy a good book or a sitcom instead.)

As individuals, we can choose to take up petty feuds with our colleagues or we can show them respect and trust.

As individuals, we can choose to band together, feeding off mutual hatred toward those who seem different to us, or we strike up conversations with strangers and find out we have more in common than we thought.

When, as individuals, we all start making better choices, we’ll see positive change sweeping through our entire social and political fabric: our government, our media, our businesses, our schools, our neighborhoods.

But the hard work starts with ourselves.


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