Richard Stride Commentary: We Must Confront Our Divisions Now More Than Ever

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“There’s something happening here …”

The 1960s hits “For What It’s Worth” (1967) by Buffalo Springfield and “Get Together” (1967) by the Youngbloods are more relevant today than ever. 

The lyrics from “For What It’s Worth” say “There’s something happening here …There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. Young people speaking their minds, getting so much resistance from behind … Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep. It starts when you’re always afraid.” 

The most infamous lines are, “I think it’s time we stop children, what’s that sound? Everybody looks at what's going down.”

What does this mean? As in all art, meaning is in the hearts and minds of the viewer or listener.  As I ponder the lyrics, I think of the deep divisions in our country, politically, racially and financially.

These divisions pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, brother against brother, sister against sister, liberals against conservatives. Maybe it is time we “stop” and take a look around and really see what divisions are doing to our hearts, our minds and our very souls.

Divisions are nothing new. History bears this out. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that we, unfortunately, don’t learn from our collective past. 

Each new generation does not look to history as a guide. New generations perceive history as bygone and no longer relevant. So it is summarily ignored. Why does this happen? The only answer I can come up with is that each new generation thinks their situation is unique when in fact it is not.

If only history was actually studied and examined we would see the only thing that’s changed is time. Nothing else. Unfortunately, because we refuse to regard and learn from our past, we repeat the same mistakes. We embrace baseless theories. We disregard the lessons. So we end up with the same divisions. 

Where does that leave us? It leaves us in an endless cycle of see, act, repeat, see, act, repeat.  It is a fact that each new generation suffers through what previous generations have already learned, concluded and moved past. 

Past generations have learned divisions do nothing but deepen bitterness, entrench falsehoods and leave us (you, myself and everyone else) with a sense of despair. Despair is the last thing we need when we are already dealing with a pandemic. 

The lyrics from “Get Together” say “Love is but a song to sing. Fears the way we die. You can make the mountains ring. Or make the angels cry … Some may come, and some may go. We shall surely pass.” 

Then the chorus harkens us to look past our divisions, “Come on people now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together. Try to love one another, right now.”

Don’t you think it's time that we stop and look around at what’s happening? I mean really, really look. Look into the faces of those who are being discriminated against. Look into the faces of the children who are bullied. Look into the faces of people suffering from mental illness. Look into the faces of those who are dying of COVID-19. Look into the faces of those who have lost loved ones from COVID-19. Look into the faces of those who are scared for their futures. Look deep into the faces of all these and then tell me we don’t need healing from our divisiveness!  We must confront our divisions. Now, more than ever.

Let’s do some collective soul searching here. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. Aren’t you? I’m tired of the divisions. I’m tired of the hateful messages. I’m tired of intolerance. I’m tired of selfishness. I’m tired of the bullying. I’m tired of the racism. I’m tired of hearing from those who say, “my way is the only way.” 

I guess I’m just tired. I’ll bet you are too.

Perhaps it’s time we start making the choice to love one another rather than hate each other.  Maybe now is the time to remember what binds us, instead of what divides us. Maybe we need to remember the times we pulled together as Americans and defeated Nazism and fascism.  The times we came face to face with our national racism and vowed to change. The times when we felt a sense of duty, honor and resolve to bring the 9/11 terrorists to justice. The times we collectively mourned, and still are, over the tragic loss of a life to virus, the most recent being the tragic and shocking loss of Lewis County Commissioner Gary Stamper.

Let’s decide today to “stop … and look at what’s going down.” Let’s decide today to “smile on your brother.”  Let’s decide today to “get together. Try to love one another, right now.”

What do you say?

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Richard Stride has been a practicing psychotherapist. He has worked in behavioral and forensic mental health for over 30 years as a counselor, clinical director and senior executive. He served eight years as a captain in the United States Army Reserve. He enjoys teaching, public speaking and prides himself on being a student of history. He is the current CEO of Cascade Community Healthcare. He can be reached at drstride@icloud.com.