Unite the States of America.

Wouldn’t that be something? Here in the celebrated month of freedom and independence, for most, to even think of solving a riddle so complex seems insurmountable. Borrowing from Children’s Defense Fund, “The sea is so wide and my boat is so small,” I say, the divide is so wide and our boats have holes. We may sink.

Why? We are too different. We are not the same. We cannot be united as one, we are too splintered. We don’t really understand each other even though we often like each other. So, we might be able to unite for good reasons that we have in common. We all live here…We all want to survive and thrive and be done with violence. With that hope, maybe we can find a way we can do better. Who wants to be first? We are making variable efforts at dealing with a pandemic, economic stresses, job loss and the strain of injustice and inequality have reached the breaking point that has been expected and in many lives way overdue. That’s a lot to deal with. We can work on all that. With each other. Or can we?

Of course we can. Because we have to. It won’t be easy. But, if we don’t give more us to solutions, we will just get farther apart pointing fingers, blaming, lecturing, demanding and yelling, tactics that really further divide. They just inflame more bad behavior. We know peace is better, listening with respect and exchanging feelings and ideas, certainly still with rational passion and conviction.

But as much as we want to, we will not change the hearts and minds of some. They have become them and no amount of training will prepare them for certain roles in life. What has to change for there to be change is to find who we are as human beings from the inside out.

The reasons for our inability to combat all of our villains as a team with united fronts are many, but in my opinion, and yes, I am biased, the core reason is found in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, that most of our ills and shortcomings are about the content of our character, not skin color, not education, not religion, not laws, but by the content of character. That character building starts early. Home is where the start is.

My 30 years of working with healthy and unhealthy families plus research after research point directly to the connection between how we are raised, with the type of environment and treatment experienced defining much of how we live our lives. Many of those who behave in horrible ways with meanness and disrespect justified by rules or a badge or superior attitudes suffer character flaws. They have become unhappy, intolerant, angry, dysfunctional human beings, damaged early in life unable to recover. Dr. King’s wisdom can be applied to us all. Judge us by the content of our behavior, our character.

Ten of the most admired character traits are honesty. Responsibility. Consideration. Compassionate. Forgiving. Integrity. Caring. Humble. Kind and tolerant.

We can get almost anything we want from the internet or social media, but we cannot discover, develop and maintain who we are and will become electronically. That has to come from the hearts and minds of real people who care and who show it. In person! From the people who are role models and teach character.

I hope you all celebrate the Fourth of July with joy and pride, and, parents, please remember to celebrate the growth of character in your children, the character that may one day truly unite us all.

Don’t lose heart.

Jim R. Rogers, M.Ed., Certified Family Life Educator, stilllearning.org, ParentsCare@sc.rr.com

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