START. STOP. START SOMETHING NEW. There we were in our shirtsleeves, playing golf on a 70-degree Saturday in December, when my old friend, cart mate and Republican said, “I could get used to this global warming stuff.” Unable to resist the smart-ass opening I had just been provided, I replied, “Must be tough on you guys these days – not only do you have to admit to global warming, you have to throw Grover and the pledge under the elephant.”
“Don’t start with me, Conaway, just don’t start,” he said.
He’s right. Starting conversations with the same old vitriol, rubbing something in or firing up celebrations fueled by someone else’s misery is a sure way to halt forward progress. On the other side, denying anything significant happened – redefining defeat as a minor setback and unconstitutional as inconvenient – spins everything to a dead stop. Playing that game nationally is pushing us right off a cliff, and playing it locally is slamming us into walls being built around our suburban communities.
For example, an old school voice in Shelby County: Germantown Mayor Sharon Goldsworthy in The Commercial Appeal following Judge Mays' ruling, “Although this particular pathway to our own school district has been blocked, I believe our Board of Mayor and Alderman is determined to fulfill the mandate delivered by Germantown voters in August. They were loud and clear in their overwhelming support for an autonomous, locally controlled system of public education here. We expect to examine other options and opportunities to make that happen.”
In other words, reload. Take the sales tax increase she just got and spend it in court.
For example, a new school voice in Shelby County: Millington Mayor Linda Carter in The Commercial Appeal, “The judge has made his decision. We can kick and scream or we can become adults and admit to the fact that in 2013, we’re going to be in this together. So, let’s work out the differences.”
In other words, truce. Get off the dangerous edges – left and right – get out of the courtrooms, and get to the safety of the middle where we can all get on with it. Start something new. Equal not separate. Respectful not separate. Pragmatic not separate. Something new in Shelby County, something unified.
In church last Sunday, the priest offered a closing prayer that made me think of that moment with my friend on the golf course and this moment in our national and local life. When an Episcopalian starts quoting prayers in public, one must wonder if the Mayans were right and we only have a couple of weeks left. But if we are to go on, or, to use church terms, if we are to process, this prayer offers solid GPS coordinates:
“Life is short, and we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be quick to love and make haste to be kind and always forgiving.” – Henri-Frédéric Amiel, 1868.
I’m a Memphian, and I’ll try if you will.
Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.