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We need less vilification, more of a willingness to come together

As the parent of two small children the last two weeks has me confounded.

Fortunately, with one age 4 (and a half, she would add) and the other at 10 months, shielding them from news of the world is fairly simple.

That will become more and more difficult as they venture ever more into the world and out of the protective bubble of childhood.

How does one begin to explain mass tragedies like the massacre in Las Vegas? Adults are struggling to wrap their heads around what transpired, so I can only imagine what it’s like for the children, grandchildren or friends of the victims, survivors or even people who knew the perpetrator.

Evil has always been in our world; however, it certainly doesn’t take a New Testament conspiracy theorist to think the world’s morals are now crumbling around us faster than ever.

The moral breakdown goes beyond these mass shootings.

What worries me most is a growing divide among people. It’s fed by a growing over sensitivity and tendency to be offended by even the smallest of things, and then focus on divisions and differences of opinion rather than the tenets of humanity that should bring us together.

It started with political correctness. No one could say anything in public that could be construed as potentially offensive to another person.

That’s nearly impossible, yet the expectation of perfect speech and action, where no one gets their feelings hurt has become the new standard, and the political correctness police continue to try and enforce this.

No longer are we all simply Americans.

We are labeled in subgroups, as the type of Americans others view us as.

The labels are everywhere and they are acidic, slowly eroding us from the inside.

In the last 24 months, the nation has become much more politically fractured than at any other point in my life.

Prior to the Las Vegas massacre the national headlines were rife with articles about a number of NFL players and coaches seeking to protest mistreatment of black Americans by law enforcement officers.

It started with a single player who decided to silently kneel during the pre-game tradition of the national anthem.

The criticism of the man grew and others players joined in the protest.

The issue has quickly devolved into a misplaced dispute over patriotism. The protests and patriotism are not mutually exclusive as some people suggest.

A person can be deeply devoted to our country, yet still feel strongly that something is wrong in the country and want to protest.

Locally, the head football coach for Natchez High School has begun kneeling in prayer during the national anthem. The coach says he prays to God, asking for wisdom and understanding in the country.

He says as the son of a military veteran, he means no disrespect to the country or its flag.

His explanation seems reasoned and sound. He doesn’t seem to be seeking confrontation or trouble. He appears to be a reasoned, godly man who feels compelled to pray.

Yet, this strange response comes from seemingly Christian members of the community: How dare he not stand for the flag and our nation’s anthem?

It makes me wonder just how we’ve managed to get our collective perspectives out of order.

If the coach feels compelled to pray for our country, how can our country even remotely believe his doing so to be a problem?

I stand proudly when the national anthem is played, but I also respect the Natchez High coach’s right to choose to kneel and pray instead. His kneeling does nothing to harm my own patriotism or me. Some people may not agree with his choice of timing or method of protest.

But as human beings we should realize we have an obligation to agree to disagree with one another sometimes.

We need more of that, and less vilification, more of an effort to come together.

And I hope one day if I have to explain that to my own children I will do so in a way that helps them appreciate that we are to put God first and all other things, including ourselves and our country after Him.
Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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