The need to learn from our history

Every four years, the people of this nation step forward to let our voices be heard and select the next individual to take the highest elected office in the land.

The election of 2016 has divided us unlike any election in recent memory. Granted, I am only 37, but I do not remember of any presidential campaign which has split this country at such a level, at least not since 1860.

It is a little ironic, that we will make such a large decision on Tuesday, and one week ago I happened to be standing on the battlefield of one of the watershed conflicts during the war which erupted following that election more than 150 years ago.

I’ve always enjoyed learning about our nation’s history, and one of the best places, for me, to reflect on that history and the consequences of the divisions which exist here has been Gettysburg.

The battle there, on July 1-3, 1863, has long been considered the turning point in our nation’s Civil War. There have been multiple reasons cited for the beginning of that war, but much of it erupted following the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Then, as now, there was fear, accusations, poisonous rhetoric and much darkness.

The people were divided over culture, beliefs and the thought that one individual or a group could take it all away.

That’s a bit of an oversimplification, of course, but hopefully you see the point.

Those battlefields, while often packed with tourists, also give one an opportunity to think while learning about the past.

I don’t think any of us want to return to such a dark point in our nation’s history. I would hope none of us want to see this nation literally split because of cultural or political differences, but that seems to be a possible path the way this election has been.

There are deep-seated divisions and wounds being opened as part of this election. Anger and frustrations are being expressed more openly than ever before.

All comments are taken as fact without any research, helping to ignite the smoldering embers, and I’m just hoping nothing else happens to add fuel to the fire.

No matter what candidate is chosen on Tuesday, there are going to be people who are unhappy. It happens every four years, but this time has been different.

There have been open threats from both sides of the political spectrum, with warnings of legal action, protests and even full-blown violence.

That is not something our nation, or the rest of the world, needs.

What we need is to take some time, and let cooler heads prevail for the time being. We need to look toward our past, learn from it and find ways to move forward.

The United States of America has a lot of problems. There are many obstacles in our way. There are difficult times on the road ahead.

I don’t know where we will go after Tuesday, but I do know that what we don’t need is a full-on meltdown caused by political showmanship and bickering.

No one is going to have all of the answers, but we can study the answers from those who came before.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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