Thomasville Times Enterprise

Opinion

February 22, 2014

‘Beautiful friendship’

“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” This is the final line of monologue in the classic movie “Casablanca.” It’s my fervent hope that this statement will, in time, also be the summation of Thursday night’s joint political meeting between the Thomas County Republican and Democratic Parties at the Municipal Auditorium.

Would you like to know what my favorite part of Thursday night’s joint meeting was? The conclusion. Immediately following the end of the forum, the Democratic panelists and the Republican panelists fellowshipped on that stage. We hugged each other sincerely. We shook hands firmly. We exchanged business cards. We made lunch plans together. We thanked each other for attending and participating. We vowed to stay in touch via emails and text messages and phone calls. And best of all, we invited each other to our perspective houses of worship. Think about the magnitude of that, good people. Mortal enemies do not extend such courtesies to one another. This is the stuff of friendship. This is the neighborhood of colleagues. This is the proximity of family.

Did we have our differences politically? Of course. Did we do a good job of stating what we believe and why we believe it? You may or may not agree with me, but yes, I think so. In a sermon I preached last year, I shared this sentiment: “None of us walks on water; so love your neighbor as you love yourself. Cherish everyone. Exclude no one. Empathy is interconnected with communication. Communication fosters understanding. Understanding is the genesis of friendship. Friendship walks arm-in-arm with joy.”

Could Thursday night be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the Thomas County Republican Party and the Thomas County Democratic Party? Perhaps. Time will tell. But as doctors say on occasion, I’m guardedly optimistic.

How cool would it be for the local Republican officers to come sit in on a local Democratic general meeting from time to time — and vice versa? How wonderful would it be for Thomasvillians to see a local Republican official and a local Democratic official together at a Thomasville High School football game; or dining together at Jonah’s Fish & Grits? How momentous would it be for a local Republican leader to invite the entire local Democratic Party to his/her church to worship; and vice versa? If and when those things begin happening here in the City of Roses, the rant and rave section of the newspaper will suddenly have a lot more white space.

Each and every journey — no matter how arduous or how long — begins with a single step. I think it’s safe to say that we all took a step Thursday night. I think it’s necessary to point out that we all took a step forward. And we all took that single step forward together.

To be sure, everyone will not be pleased with this bold new venture we are trying to establish. Some hard-line Democrats may say that we’re foolish to try to establish and maintain good relations with our Republican counterparts. Conversely, some traditional Republicans might be of the opinion that the local Republicans have capitulated to the Obama lovers and the tax-and-spend crowd among us. Neither of these narratives would be true, but they will certainly come. It’s not a matter of if. It’s simply a matter of when. That’s alright. People tend to fear change, so we change agents must be mindful of this fact in our words and in our actions. If we want local citizens to join our local political parties, we party officials and members must be proactive, visible and forthright. We must first give them reasons to want to join us. We must first give them reasons to want to listen to us.

Last week, I extended to each of you a pledge and a promise. I pledged to arrive at the joint political meeting early to greet my political proponents and opponents. I did that. I promised to come to the forum, defend my beliefs in a respectful way, debate anyone yet argue with no one. I did that, as well. I could be naïve, but I think I made a new Republican friend or two Thursday night.

The purpose of Thursday night’s meeting was to reiterate our status as Thomasvillians, Georgians and Americans under God. We acknowledged our differences while naming our common interests. If you’re wondering who won, you won. I won. Both parties won. Thomasville and Thomas County won.

I personally thank Mark Lastinger for making Thursday night’s forum possible. I thank every local citizen who took the time to attend it. Thomasville is a beautiful place in which to live. We have beautiful residents. They deserve a beautiful friendship between the local parties. Let’s make that happen — together.

 

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