McLean column: ‘Community’ often about finding common ground
Recently our church, Mountain View, hired a new pastor. At his first service a speaker warned the new pastor that “community” was not as strong or welcoming in Colorado as it had been in Minnesota or Wisconsin. As a result, it would be more difficult for the pastor and his family to adjust.
I was offended by the comment. Remembering Eagle in my youth I could not imagine a better or more welcoming community. One of my friends, who is generally intelligent about other matters, said that he agreed with that speaker. He said that the Midwest, specifically Nebraska where he came from, had a stronger community. Still offended, I began to wonder what they meant by community and if perhaps they were correct. Based on a limited sample, I have found that Midwestern towns are more homogenous than our communities today. Eagle, where I lived many years ago, also was homogenous, but I do not believe that is what makes a community. It seems to me that a common struggle or common purpose makes a community.
For example, the continuing efforts to fight and recover from the Lake Christine Fire have brought the middle valley together. No one asks whether firefighters or those displaced are NRA members or socialists. No one cares if one is Hispanic or a Trump supporter. There is a common purpose in defeating the fire and recovering.
GoFundMe pages have been set up for the victims. As of this writing, the fund for Fire Captain Williams, who lost his home, is at $101,786 to help him rebuild. Other victims have had similar results. That would seem to indicate a strong feeling of community.
In Glenwood and the entire valley, the community came together to deal with the closing of the bridge. While complaints were many, we all dealt with it knowing that the community would be better off in the future with the new bridge.
Today in Glenwood, the community is united in opposition to the expansion of the quarry. Both sides of the political spectrum are in agreement on the need to stop this project.
It is my belief that the vast majority of those in our community and in America agree on at least 80 percent of policies. Those on the radical left or right refuse to agree on almost anything, but the large number in the middle disagrees on little of importance.
A liberal reader of my column recently asked to meet with me in order to discuss our differing views. We met and had what I thought was a good conversation, finding common ground on many topics. The venal differences between liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican are generally not present in personal relationships. When one makes an attempt to understand the other’s views on a personal level it is less likely to lead to a contentious conflict.
Too often today, the media on both sides seems to try to create divides rather than solutions. Violence and anger make for more interesting television. Social media is immediate, with no time delay to defuse a situation before it goes viral.
I do not believe that most Americans oppose the police or would like to abolish ICE. Most Americans would like to see a reasonable solution to DACA but also would like to have good border security and illegal immigration stopped.
In the American community, we believe in many of the same core values. We believe in Freedom, equal opportunity, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. We believe in public education. Most Americans support the military and the police. We believe in a strong defense, although we often disagree on how best to achieve that.
My new liberal friend expressed his concern for the growing wage gap. Successful in his career and wealthy, he seemed to indicate that he believed in redistribution of wealth in order for those at the bottom of our society to rise out of poverty.
While concerned about wages in general, redistribution is a concept with which I would politely disagree. It is a nice thought, but the entitlement mentality is, in my opinion, dangerous to promote. It promotes a concept that there is no reason to work. Instead of raising those at the bottom of society, it brings down those in the middle.
As a community, we need to work to bring higher paying jobs to our area. Is there a problem with affordable housing or is the problem that there are too few high paying jobs? Attracting high-tech jobs could be a solution.
My liberal friend expressed a concern regarding artificial intelligence, which I had not considered. He points out that with artificial intelligence robots will replace humans in many jobs. For many years industrial robots have replaced workers on manufacturing assembly lines.
As a community, what can be done to prepare for the increasing use of A.I.? Education must be a priority. We should increase technical education and insist that teachers be paid more. We should reduce administrative costs and capital expenditures in order for teachers to be paid better.
Our community is diverse but it is strong, friendly and resilient. The new pastor will be well received.
Roland McLean is a Carbondale-area resident, University of Colorado graduate, Navy veteran and retiree after more than 30 years in international construction. His column normally appears on the fourth Thursday of each month. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.