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Partisan bashing a lose-lose for all

Out of My Head

Posted: October 11, 2008 8:51 p.m.
Updated: December 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Several weeks ago I attended a particularly sad funeral.

Yes, I know, all funerals are heartrending. But this one was for a very special young woman, someone who should have had at least 50 more years on earth — and probably would have if breast cancer hadn’t intervened.

During her memorial service, I looked around at the 200-plus mourners. Whether blotting tears, sighing or shaking their heads, all were visibly shaken over Brandi Newquist’s passing.

No further proof was necessary to know she touched many people throughout her lifetime.

An indomitable, ever-smiling warrior-volunteer for the American Cancer Society, Brandi epitomized the words “hope,” “joy” and “kindness.” You never heard negatives come from her mouth — only upbeat, selfless messages, including how we all should treasure our time and those we love and help others along the way.

Somewhere between a Kleenex change and another emotion-packed eulogy, a thought dawned on me: I knew much about this precious lady, but nothing about her political affiliation.

Sure, that was a rather strange thought to have at a funeral. But given the electrified political climate we’re in, I suppose that reality check was able to bubble to the surface of my mournful psyche. So I didn’t know her politics. But I did know she was one of the most inspirational and inside-and-out-beautiful people I’d ever met.

I knew the world fast became a chillier place without her warm, authentic goodness. I also knew that no matter what her political leanings had been, nothing would have changed my opinion of her.

Her essence was golden to me, whether she’d been a conservative, liberal, or something in between.

Since Brandi’s service, I’ve given more thought to the importance of appreciating others for their valued qualities, even when their political leanings don’t intersect with our own.

A recent encounter underscored that desire.

During a rather “politics-light” conversation, a business acquaintance blurted to me, “I can’t stand Democrats. They make me sick.”

With that, the person pointed an index finger down her throat and faux gagged.

She was serious.

After my own hard swallow, I told her I was a Democrat, then added in a playful tone, “But I still love you.”
Our awkward conversation ended there. And I don’t think we’ll ever re-visit it, for I got the distinct impression that the subject is closed.

This brings me to our increasingly derisive, ultra-incendiary pre-election countdown.
While candidates and many partisan voters aggressively (and sometimes falsely) vilify the other side, greater tolerance is desperately needed.

I know such broadmindedness and empathy is possible. Recall the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and you will, too.

Don’t you remember how, following the terrorist attack against our country, everyone was suddenly so much nicer to each other?

From opening doors to driving more considerately to smiling at strangers who passed our way, we were united by a common cause and a common fear.

Our political beliefs quickly became secondary to the need for humbly banding together in search of strength, comfort, and faith in our future.

No matter what your politics were, Americans came away from 9-11 with a new civility and tolerance.

But in the months, years, and disastrous national circumstances since, a huge partisan divide has developed, prompting many people to say despicable things about those who don’t support their candidates or agendas.

In some circles, this “hang ‘em high” mentality has become a belief system in itself.

What will it take to conscionably curtail this vitriol? Do we need another manmade (or natural) catastrophe to restore respect and consideration?

What about when this election becomes yesterday’s news?

Will there be partisan payback and even deeper lines of separation?

If we further weaken our country through such malignant bias, what’s left of “us” to defend our country if we’re attacked again?

How do we teach our children and grandkids to become peaceful, understanding adults if we’re damning folks for simply being of a “blue” or “red” persuasion?

A house divided is a house that falls, and regrettably, we’re doing a pretty good job lately at kicking in the walls.

I want to share a meaningful message that came to me the other day. It was written by a rabbi, in honor of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, which was celebrated during this past week and culminated with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

This is considered a time for self-reflection, repentance, and self-renewal — when we strive toward becoming better people and evoking the positive change that’s so desperately needed.

The rabbi wrote: “How do you know when you are really ready for Rosh Hashanah? When you are ready to include the whole world in your prayers.”

I wish all men and women would to take a clue from the rabbi. Life is short, and we are so much more than our political beliefs or borders.

Why waste time focusing on differences, and then denigrating others because of them? In the bigger picture, there is far more to celebrate in our uniqueness and similarities.

It shouldn’t take another 9-11 to knock sense into our skulls and make us kinder and less judgmental of one other.

Nor should it ever take a final farewell for partisan attendees to admit, “Despite so-and-so’s ‘crummy’ political viewpoints, I guess they were decent person after all.”

Diana Sevanian is a Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own opinion and not necessarily those of The Signal.  


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