David Treadwell

David Treadwell

Last week I suggested ways we might make America America again on the national level. Here are some thoughts on the local level.

Let’s start with the home, which is the best place to start, as children develop habits, values and, yes, prejudices from their parents. Read to your kids and get them reading at an early age. Don’t be a helicopter parent; let kids make decisions and learn from mistakes. Encourage creativity; staying between the lines isn’t always the best course. Set limits; kids want them and need them. Teach kids the value of working for the common good beyond the immediate family. Help them embrace diversity in religions, races, cultures and economic backgrounds; that’s not being “politically correct;” it’s being American and it’s being smart. Be there when they’re strutting their stuff in games, concerts or other public competitions; but don’t be obnoxious when a teacher or coach doesn’t think your kid is the next superstar. Teach them not to take themselves too seriously; laughter matters. And help them understand that — surprise, surprise — other people’s feelings count. Oh, did I mention the need to limit computer (and texting) time?

Build bridges in the community, not walls. We can hunker down in our own little houses or we can try to lift the larger community. That’s the choice. If we are Americans, we should care about all Americans, not just those who look or act or sound like us. The same principle applies to the local community. Options abound to get involved. Do so.

Try to understand those on the other side of the political divide. Some people say we should avoid difficult subjects, such as politics and religion. I am not one of those people, especially when it comes to politics. If we are not willing to have our beliefs challenged, then they weren’t strong in the first place. It’s been good for me to belong to a monthly breakfast group (“The Brethren”), composed of eight men whose political views span the spectrum. We haven’t changed each others’ political views much, but at least we better understand and respect our differences. We’ve also found much common ground.

And that brings some questions to mind: What does it mean to be an “American?” What values do we share? I suspect we all embrace the idea of a democratic form of government. What can/should we do on the local and state levels to ensure the preservation of a real democracy? If we stay on the sidelines, we will pay the price; apathy has consequences.

Get to know and mentor young people. Even if we don’t get wiser as we get older — especially on the technology front — we have the responsibility to help younger people find their way. Moreover, young people are often more able to heed advice from someone who isn’t a parent. Finally, they might listen to us because they think we have something to say!

The election of Donald Trump has forced us to ask ourselves, “Who are we?” and “What kind of a nation to do we want to be?” That’s a good thing, and the process of finding good answers begins right here at home.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns at [email protected]

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