New hope for civility in a time of loss


The world has lost some very inspiring figures in the last few weeks. Neil Simon. Aretha Franklin. John McCain.

The older I get, the more these kinds of losses give me pause. But the very public funerals of Aretha Franklin and John McCain also made me think of something else.

Here were two huge celebrations of life where divergent groups of people came together to speak. They could put aside their differences to find the good in both these public figures.

In the case of McCain, the differences were great. The speakers represented a wide political and policy spectrum. But, as we came to learn, that was all business. They all shared a deep respect and, at times, friendship with McCain. And he with each one of them.

Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew who walked to the service because it was Shabbat, was among the speakers. Lieberman was often across the aisle politically from McCain, first as a Democrat and later as an independent. But rumor has it that McCain considered picking his friend Joe as his running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee called McCain “an extraordinarily courageous defender of liberty.”

Its statement continued, “Throughout his congressional career Senator McCain stood with Israel because throughout his life he stood up for America’s allies and our shared democratic values.”

The stories of bipartisanship, respect and friendship across political positions were refreshing. The recurring themes were that we’re better together than apart and that we have more in common than divides us.

Now, some have criticized the public display of it all, and the speakers chosen and what they had to say. But take a step back and think about it: Isn’t it amazing that we have the freedom of speech to see and hear what all these people had to say? And to offer our own opinions on it all?

So, as the election season begins to ramp up, I am reminding you again that the way to best express our opinions is to exercise our right – and obligation – to vote. It matters not to this writer which side of the aisle you are on. We will never recommend which candidate should get your vote. Just make your voice heard.

Primary day in Rhode Island is Sept. 12. Please make sure you participate.