I write a sports column for my local newspaper. They pay me $25 a week to churn out 600 words — mostly about my time spent playing and coaching football — and up until recently, I was a big hit in my little corner of Arkansas.
Then I wrote about the president.
I simply imagined Donald Trump as a high school football coach, arguing his antics wouldn’t go over well in the local arena. It ran on a Sunday with the title “Coach Trump.”
By that Monday morning, an enraged man had already stormed the newspaper office, withdrawing his subscription. Then came the phone calls, townsfolk lamenting about how “disappointed” they were, how upsetting it was to see such commentary in the “Sports” section.
I also received emails, good and bad, each one drawing its own line. It felt like picking teams, preparing for battle. I walked through the coming days glancing over my shoulder, all the time wondering if I had ventured into enemy territory.
Problem was, I was in my own neighborhood. These were my fellow countrymen, fellow Arkansans — these were my people.
Who’s to blame for such polarization?
It’s not the president. Donald Trump came onto the scene long after the line was drawn. He’s certainly added fuel to the fire, but our current schism is not Trump’s fault.
The fault is all ours. A deep-seated culture of selfishness has been allowed to fester in our country. We vote for the candidate that best suits our needs, pushes our own agenda. And the politicians? They serve selfishly. They give speeches — make promises — all bent toward what’s popular, what will get them the most votes, instead of what is best for all.
Even the Declaration of Independence tells us to go forth in search of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
A me-versus-you, win-at-all-cost mentality has spread across our country under such maxims, a place where even members of the same community — the same small town in the Arkansas River Valley — must snarl and posture to make sure their way, their beliefs — their politics — win the day.
But this is not the way.
The way is as old as time itself. It’s written on our souls, in our hearts. We know it when we see it. It tingles up our spines. Makes our hair stand on end. It’s goodness, wholeness, selflessness in its rawest form.
The answer to our growing divide will not come from our current president, or any president to come. The answer will come from the inside out. And it will start small, like all good things. It could be as simple as smiling at a stranger, a million tiny acts of kindness slowly righting our sinking ship.
America will not be destroyed — or made great again — by any one man. It will take all of us coming together for the greater good. And maybe, if we do, we’ll find life, liberty, and happiness for all Americans, instead of just ourselves.
Editor’s note: This column came to The Daily News after retired editor Heber Taylor met the author in Arkansas. It’s published here for the first time.