Reverence for our Country

Yesterday, a dear friend made a comment at a leisurely lunch with our spouses.  She said that she was sure that I was very upset over VP Harris wishing people a Happy Memorial Day.  She knows I am a proud Marine and a proud American.

Yet, I deflected the comment and her husband quickly said, “No politics!”  Whew.  Thank you.

But it stuck with me all night.  First, I hadn’t seen the comment that seemed to get her attention.  When I looked for it, it seemed the Vice President had wished everyone a nice long weekend.  She was then taken to task about why she didn’t mention the somber holiday of Memorial Day.

Okay. I get the righteous indignation.  My Marine family doesn’t particularly care for the sentiment “Happy Memorial Day” either because the purpose of the holiday is one of remembrance and reverence for those who gave their lives to our country, not hot dogs and cookouts.

But I didn’t take offense to the VPs remark, even initially.  I have been known to take offense in times past to anyone who doesn’t know the history of our country enough to have reverence for what is dear to us.

In September 2014, President Obama descended the stairs of Marine One and returned a salute to a Marine honor guard with a coffee cup in his hand.  I was appalled!  I was incensed!!  I was irate!!  I probably said some pretty nasty things about our President while in the company of those who agreed with me.

Harris not understanding the meaning of Memorial Day would be right up there with returning a salute with a coffee cup in hand.  But in reality, I have no idea what she knew or didn’t know, said, or didn’t say.  All I saw was people bent out of shape because she wished folks a nice long weekend and, at that time, didn’t mention the holiday.

Maybe I’ve mellowed and am less inclined to get riled up over a faux pas.  Maybe it wasn’t a faux pas but a tired woman saying what was on her mind at the time; I know when I was in the corporate world, long weekends were my everything.

Funny how six years, a pandemic, overwhelming societal conflict, the Trump administration, and my brain that works overtime can make such a difference.  I would never have been so forgiving with Obama in 2014.

But perhaps I am just tired.  I’m tired of our lack of grace.  I’m tired of people jumping on a mistake, only to turn it around as an attack.  I’m tired of judging every nuance only through a red or blue lens.  I’m tired of a world that only reads headlines from the media they agree with.

We’re never going to go anywhere that way unless we find ourselves in a place where one side or the other wins and returns the other side to being marginalized.  I worry we are heading down that path.

Could we teach ourselves to get back to a point where we show grace to others, where we forgive an honest mistake (but hold those accountable for dishonest or devious mistakes), where we ask ourselves some important questions before we react?

Could we possibly agree as a people to resist binary thinking and look deeper?  What if, when we hear or read a headline that makes us shudder, we ask “Why would that be?”  Is there an underlying issue that we could discuss deeper than our “leaning?”  When we claim a leaning and don’t investigate issues, might we be missing something?

We can keep this up – attack every single media mention that supports the direction in which we lean – or….we could make a conscious, individual decision not to do that.

What happened to us that we no longer see humanity?

I think we could do things differently.  I’m not willing to lose my optimism.  Yet.


Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson
CAROL is the founder and Principal of Anderson Performance Partners, LLC, a business consultancy focused on bringing together organizational leaders to unite all aspects of the business – CEO, CFO, HR – to build, implement and evaluate a workforce alignment strategy. With over 35 years of executive leadership, she brings a unique lens and proven methodologies to help CEOs demand performance from HR and to develop the capability of HR to deliver business results by aligning the workforce to the strategy. She is the author of Leading an HR Transformation, published by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018, which provides a practical RoadMap for human resource professionals to lead the process of aligning the workforce to the business strategy, and deliver results, and writes regularly for several business publications.

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  1. Hi Carol

    I read your ost with great interest. Your articulation of the problem was right one the money. Your wish is the wish, I believe, of all right thinking Americans. But looking at this from the outside (Canada), what I have seen is a country that has made everything too easy, and has created a nation of intellectual slackers, who would really just carry the bare minimum of understanding of any given issue. There are a number of forces that come to bear on this…the media, which always manages to go after any and all nuances because they now have so damn much time to fill, the education system which is simply processing people from K to 12 and after that it’s whose folks have enough money to send them to the right school…the politicians who are constantly looking to reposition their competition, and the internet which allows hate and anarchy to thrive.
    The people of your country are up against a lot of forces working to keep them dumbed down and obedient, because if everything is judged by way of cults of personality, which Trump leveraged to his advantage, most people will believe anything you tell them. Fortunately there are more smart thinking people in the US than the other kind, and so there’s always hope. But it’s a tough row to hoe. Here in Ontario where I live we have a Trumpish Conservative, and most people just can’t stand him, but at the moment there is no strong alternative. So we just keep shouting “Wake Up!” in the hope that the people actually do.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jim. All of the forces you mention are right on target. Don’t they, thought, also exist in Canada? This is, perhaps, rhetorical, but why is it so different here? I agree with the complacency here in the US – but so many of those factors you point out are present in many other countries.

  2. I, too, regret the current sour state of our national discourse, Carol, and I’m sorry your friend ruined an otherwise delightful lunch (I’m guessing). I avoid specific condemnations, and I don’t wish to stir the pot, but as a 30-year veteran myself I feel I have a bit of authority, perhaps even obligation to cite one of the root causes of our national anger, and that is Fox News. Sure, there are other outlets & media sources that twist and bend the events to suit their siloed audience, I get that. But it’s time we recognize that Fox truly is the source of the hate and division endemic in our society. Mr. Murdoch and his minions at Fox know exactly what stirs the national pot, and they don’t hesitate to seek the most vile and evocative slant on the slightest thing, story or non-story, it matters not, to sell more and better air time. The disparaging comment on VP Harris is the perfect example. With so many newsworthy events in the world they pick that? I believe it’s time for real Americans to turn off Fox News and sort things out for themselves. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Thanks for commenting, Byron. My lunch was wonderful and we both have a great deal of respect for each other.

      I sense that the culprit is all 24x7x365 news where every station has to fill more time than there is news to fill; enter commentary. Like reality TV, folks watch their preferred channel which reinforces the binary thinking.

  3. I’m tired of our elected officials and their appointed bureaucrats working for their handlers and not for the good of America and her people.

    I’m tired of the hate I see in our government and even in our city streets.

    I’m tire of people that have no respect for others, particularly for those that protect us.

    I’m tired of people that are too lazy to study and learn from our history and appreciate the many that have sacrificed for our safety and freedom.

  4. Thanks, Carol.
    Marvelous. And please don’t lose your optimism. Finding it again can be very procrastinatable (like that? :))
    I was certainly raised in a zero-sum household. We sailed in my family and we also raced (not the same thing). I was a pretty successful competitive sailor, but it separated me from something I couldn’t identify but still missed. Only years later did I realize that if I am focused on winning, that means I’m also focused on everyone else not winning – losing. Binary thinking. I was mistaking ego for spirit.
    So keep on fighting the good fight. There are at least two of us.

    • Thank you for this brilliant analysis, Mac. Your diagnosis about the nature of racing is spot on. Our whole society is run as if it was a race where the majority are losers. Because we celebrate the wrong achievements and disregard if the results have been achieved within an ethical framework.