We who have long pedigrees on the Eastern Shore, as well as those not originally from from the area, have learned over the past half century to live harmoniously by melding provincial sensibilities and sophisticated ideas via the social graces of live and let live and minding our manners.
However, those two virtues are not unique to us. Many who have put down roots here within the past half-century and have gotten to know us appreciate our sensibilities. And we appreciate, for the most part, fresh ideas that improve everyone’s lives here.
But we must acknowledge an undercurrent of misunderstanding and mistrust that has begun to manifest itself in ways that are rudely intrusive and sometimes scornful.
The disparity between how we perceive ourselves based on a long, often tortured history, and the perception created by well-intentioned, but often misguided or misinterpreted ideas of who we are not, rankles many who have developed friendships, associations and familial relationships among races here on the Shore.
We fought on both sides of the Civil War, but joined the Union. Old Glory defines our mutual existence and destiny, not the Confederate flag – nor a monument to war casualties that stands primarily as a memorial to family names than to an long-extinct ideal.
Many of us are old enough to remember Jim Crow segregation here and the Freedom Riders and their nonviolent sit-ins of the 1960s. We remember the desegregation of local schools in the mid-1960s. We recall the imperfect but valiant efforts to create a more equitable society here into the 1970s and beyond. A whole generation has had to pass away for old prejudices to be pushed into the back seat and eventually out of the door and onto the highway of history.
Along the way, those of us who have grown up here – of all races – have learned to respect each other more and more as the years have progressed. Not all, of course, but most of us. We have worked to develop harmonious, respectful relationships — even as the Black Lives Matter movement reminds us that cultures of all races and colors still have much to learn from each other.
We can value our differences and work for change as neighbors who have strived to deal with each other truthfully — without the often toxic filter of social media.
We call on neighbors to be just that — neighbors: Deal directly with those with whom we differ. Treat each other with respect and good will. Eschew social media as a means for airing grievances. Hesitate to jump to conclusions based on assumptions. Give the benefit of a doubt to those with whom we disagree.
There is a better way of handling grievances than by committing the logical fallacies of jumping to conclusions, launching public ad hominem attacks, creating false equivalencies, jumping on specious bandwagons and destroying someone’s business in the name of “justice.”
Let’s remember who we are. Let’s fight fair and be voices of dissent that seek to build understanding, rather than destroy reputations and livelihoods.
We can’t change history, but we can forge a better path forward as people of good will who choose to reason together.
We appeal to people of good will to deepen their understanding of each other with the aim of building bridges of understanding for a more just society here on the Eastern Shore, so that we can be examples of civil discourse for our children and grandchildren.