Note: The opinion in this article does not reflect the views of this station. It is an article provided by news partner Deseret News.
When a car drove through the crowd at an anti-racist counterprotest in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend with the apparent intention of killing and maiming some of those gathered, attention quickly focused on what Donald Trump did or didn't say to address the issue.
But my opinion on issues of equality and fairness and my revulsion of misogyny and racism, among other forms of prejudice, are not formed one whit by what the president — any president — has to say on the matter.
I'm much more interested in what the rank and file had to say about it — and about the increasingly obvious divides that are plaguing the "united" states of our United States. It seems to me every one of us should consider ourselves firefighters on the frontlines of the blaze that is the apparent increase in violence when sides square off around issues of racism, bigotry, misogyny or other forms of prejudice that point to one group of people as superior and another group as inferior.
I loathe the white supremacist ideology and I'm disgusted that it has again skittered out from under the refrigerator of life. I find misogyny disheartening and harmful. Surveys show pretty clearly that most Americans can and do embrace and accept people who are not their identical reflection in a mirror. But pockets of America are back to name-calling and rioting, and I find that pretty incredible.
There's no question that what the president says is taken as an indication of American sentiment by the rest of the world, or why else would he be our chosen leader? But here at home, I don't think people for the most part base much of their view on what the person holding the office says or doesn't say.
My view of what life in America is like and the quality of its national character is formed by my interactions with other Americans at the street level where I live: my friends, the people I sit by in church, my co-workers, the kids my kids hang out with, educators and shopkeepers and others. It's crafted in pleasant but pointed watercooler arguments, by reading letters to the editor that sometime provoke and sometimes soothe and by considering a lot of viewpoints and looking for the facts behind overblown assertions.
I'm glad about that, because it's very, very rare I encounter someone I think would walk 2 feet to harm me or someone else, while in every crisis big or small — think Haiti earthquake or Sept. 11 or the day some hooligan stole an electric wheelchair from a man in my town and strangers bought a replacement — I see people being helpful and understanding and empathetic.
Much of what politicians say is political blather designed to strengthen the base from which they hope to solidify support for the next run for office. Because re-election depends on not upsetting one's political base, the public should not be surprised to see a president or congressman or other elected official here or elsewhere do the namby-pamby two-step when issues heat up and clashes occur.
The president can be a boor or a hero — and I would sincerely prefer that the man be a hero. But his view on bigotry or misogyny or racism isn't going to do much that's practical to change the world in which I live or how I view it.
We do that for each other — and we do it one small act and one day at a time. Each of us has potential to do harm or to heal wounds. So if you want a better world, be a better person.