The 1960s was a time of turmoil in America. Many songs were written trying to capture the essence of the deep emotions of conflict about the Vietnam War and civil rights movement. In 1967 the Youngbloods released a song that wasn’t immediately popular then, but says much today. The lyrics, as profound now as then, hold meaning for us.

“Come on people now

“Smile on your brother

“Everybody get together

“Try to love one another right now.”

Then in a meaningful and more spiritual verse:

“Some may come and some may go

“He will surely pass

“when the one who left us returns for us at last

“We are but a moment’s sunlight,

“fading in the grass.”

We need to listen carefully to these words today. Decades have passed since this song was written, but we still find ourselves in polarizing conflict, and no less cynical or politically diversified than then. We should pause a moment with gratitude and look where we have come. We should take the time to get to know one another personally, despite the passing philosophies that divide us. We should reflect much on what can be and the opportunities before us we can build upon, but only if we come together to face the challenges ahead as one people.

We spend a great deal of wasted energy labeling each other — trying to put each other into a little defining box as a human being based on what we perceive to be a person’s beliefs, without ever really knowing them.

We call ourselves conservatives, liberals, moderates or independents. It’s all as if we have to fit into one of these labeled slots and that then this is what we are. What though is wrong with looking first at each other, regardless of the sticky tab labels put on each other, as Americans? That in reality is the true essence of who we are, and our legacy has been hard won by sacrifice, blood, toil and sweat. All so today we can live, however under appreciated, in the greatest nation on earth still representative as a beacon for democracy and built on lasting principles of tolerance, diversity, acceptance and values that transcend generations. We should try looking at where we have come, where we are, what we have and what things could be for all us of together, with an eye of gratitude for each other.

Beginning with the patriots we have not always agreed. Yet our laws are crafted and our Constitution written to provide a safe haven for just that diversity in belief, opinion and ability to speak our minds freely. When we begin categorizing each other by archaic labels, trying to denote belief, we do ourselves a huge injustice. While it is true there are a few on both sides of the spectrum that are close to fanatical in holding strictly to their point of view, these few are not representative of all of us, though they may shout the loudest.

The greater majority of us, I believe, deep down are much more centrist and moderate in our convictions. Because a person is a Democrat does not automatically make them a far left liberal. Because a person is a Republican does not automatically make them a far right conservative. But we use labels as easy ways to define each other. It is much more complicated in life than that. What is wrong with the ideal of trying to come together as Americans?

We need each other now more than ever. We are fighting two wars. We are challenged by a fragile economy. We face great, landmark debates on changes in health care and social programs. We have to determine as a people what investments are important for our children, education and the future. We do this better in the spirit of the founding fathers as “Americans,” instead of applying polarizing labels to each other. It is time for a new age of reason. An acceptance that shouting down an opponent’s at congressional town halls is not acceptable, but free dialogue and the willingness to hear each other out respectfully will accomplish much more. Cooperation can lead to compromise. We desperately need to get to know each other as human beings with life stories. Our views of each other will change when we do — and for the better. We will find we have much more in common than not. Most of us are just trying to do the best we can to get by.

Listen again to the lyrics:

“Come on people now

“Smile on your brother

“Everybody get together

“Try to love one another right now.”

What do we have to lose? We may find we all have much more in common than not as Americans — without labels.



PHIL G. BUSEY SR., an Edmond resident, is chairman and CEO of The Busey Group of Companies.

Recommended for you