The Planted Row: We need a common goal
For several years now, the people who live on my street have held an annual block party. We get permission from the city to block off both ends of the street from mid-afternoon until the early hours of the morning.
One family graciously allows us to gather in their driveway and garage. That’s where the food and music are. Several people bring grills, and we all bring meat to grill and dishes to share with our neighbors. There is no shortage of tasty treats or friendly company.
All the kids get together and have water gun wars and bike races. They race — laughing and soaking each other — up and down our street shaded by overhanging trees.
The adults participate in a double-elimination cornhole tournament. There’s even a traveling trophy.
After nightfall, the neighbors sit around a fire pit, swapping stories, giving updates on their lives, discussing local happenings and telling jokes.
There was a moment during the party last weekend when I was in mid-conversation, and I looked over just in time to see at least half a dozen kids take off down the street in a bike race. The moment — with the kids yelling and laughing — was so perfect, and it took me back to my childhood. No one was looking at a screen. Without glancing at the nearby cars, in that moment, you couldn’t tell if you were in 2019 or 1979.
I looked around me, and I thought, “This is America.”
The people around me all had different political and religious beliefs. And, yes, some of us were discussing politics and religion. Yet, our differing views didn’t matter. We were neighbors enjoying each other’s company. No one was screaming at anyone else. No one was calling anyone offensive names. We just offered each other more food and beer.
That is the America I remember, the America that seems so rare these days.
The block party has reminded me that it isn’t gone. Our civility and kindness and genuine concern for one another rest just below the surface of whatever passes for public discourse these days. I think all it would take to bring back the better angels of our nature is a common goal.
Last weekend our common goal was to enjoy ourselves, but I think other endeavors would work, as well.
During his Fourth of July speech, President Donald Trump said that our astronauts would be returning to the moon and would be visiting Mars soon. The administration has instructed NASA to return to the moon by the end of 2024, and if all goes according to plan, we could visit Mars in the 2030s.
To many people, this plan might just seem like a waste of money. I disagree.
We need to remind ourselves what we are capable of. We need to remember that we can work together to achieve feats that were unimaginable for most of human history. We need to make the kind of intelligence, hard work, innovation, education and willingness to work with others that are necessary to do these things traits to be admired, celebrated and promoted in our society.
We need to remember who we are when we’re together — untroubled by our political and cultural divides. We need to remember that we don’t need to fear one another, and that we’re stronger together than apart.
A national goal of returning to the moon, visiting Mars and exploring our solar system could be just the thing we need to remind us of who we used to be and who we could be again.