In a span of six short days this week, Alexandrians celebrated our nation’s independence on July 4 and will fete our city’s founding this Saturday. Fireworks, bands, summer foods and public gatherings are hallmarks of both days.
These celebrations are fun and festive. But they’re also important, perhaps now more than ever in this era of political hyperbole and divisiveness. Because when we celebrate America and Alexandria, we are making a public display of unity. We are in effect saying, “I love my country and my city.”
And despite what the movies tell us, real love — whether for our family, friends or country — is not just a feeling. Love that lasts is a commitment. Un- fortunately, unity, love and commitment don’t just happen. It takes hard work and conscious action for any of them to sprout, grow and last.
The divisiveness is all around us and easy to see, particularly on the national stage. But our local dis- course is at times not much better. On issue after issue, from waterfront redevelopment to the Ramsey Homes, elected officials and prominent Alexandrians have taken to social media to criticize one an- other, at times viciously. To what end?
Reasonable, well-intentioned people can hold opposing views on issues. They should be able to voice those opinions without being subjected to insults or ridicule. Each barb that finds its mark, each public act of incivility, is a blow against our overall unity. And it is so much easier to destroy community than it is to rebuild it.
This week, our civic celebrations present opportunities to reflect on steps we all can take to recommit ourselves to the concepts of community, unity and yes, even love.
One obvious step is to stop and think before posting something on social media that amounts to a personal attack. It may feel good to hit the send button, but generally it’s the poster, not the target, who winds up looking bad.
It also would help if we could think on a long-term basis. Whatever today’s contentious local issue — seldom of true life-and-death importance — is, another contentious issue will replace it tomorrow. While the problems come and go, the wounds of uncivil conduct linger. Let’s all do better.
Our city and our country — and our local and national leaders — are certainly not without flaws. But let’s try to remember that what unites us is still far stronger than what divides us. It’s the responsibility of each of us to try and keep those common bonds strong.
Happy birthday Alexandria and America.