Most folks who have long pedigrees in Southern Maryland, as well as those not originally from from our area, have learned over the decades to live harmoniously by melding provincial sensibilities and sophisticated ideas through the social graces of a “live and let live” temperament, as well as minding our manners.
Of course, those virtues are not unique to us. Many who have put down roots here have come to know and appreciate our sensibilities. And we appreciate, for the most part, fresh ideas that improve everyone’s lives here.
But we must acknowledge an undercurrent of misunderstanding and mistrust that has begun to manifest itself in ways that are rudely intrusive and sometimes scornful. Those feelings are occasionally manifested in letters to the editor on this page, letters that often cross the line of polite discourse and occasionally lean toward the line of good taste.
The disparity between how we perceive ourselves based on a long, often tortured history, and the perception created by well-intentioned, but often misguided or misinterpreted ideas of who we are not, rankles many who have developed friendships, associations and familial relationships among races here. It’s something that people are thinking of and discussing in light of the reexamination of what symbols of the past are appropriate for public display outside of museums.
Marylanders fought on both sides in the Civil War, but it’s important to note that our state remained in the Union. Old Glory defines our mutual existence and destiny, not the Confederate flag. There is a cemetery at Point Lookout that holds the remains of Confederate prisoners of war, but no statues of Robert E. Lee or other rebelling military officers.
Many of our readers are old enough to remember Jim Crow segregation here, as well as the Freedom Riders and their nonviolent sit-ins of the 1960s. They remember the desegregation of local schools in the mid-1960s. They recall the imperfect but valiant efforts to create a more equitable society here into the 1970s and beyond. A whole generation has had to pass away for old prejudices to begin to be pushed aside.
Along the way, those of us who have grown up here — of all races — have learned to respect each other more and more as the years have progressed. Not all, of course, but most of us. We have worked to develop harmonious, respectful relationships — even as the Black Lives Matter movement reminds us that cultures of all races and colors still have much to learn from each other. Mostly, we learn that we’re more alike than we are different.
Even still, we can value our differences and work for change as neighbors who have strived to deal with each other truthfully — without the often toxic filter of social media.
We call on neighbors to be just that — neighbors. Deal directly with those with whom we differ. Treat each other with respect and good will. Eschew social media as a means for airing grievances. Hesitate to jump to conclusions based on assumptions. Give the benefit of a doubt to those with whom we disagree. There is a better way of handling grievances than by committing the logical fallacies of jumping to conclusions, launching public ad hominem attacks, creating false equivalencies, jumping on specious bandwagons and destroying someone’s business in the name of “justice.”
Let’s remember who we are. Let’s fight fair and be voices of dissent that seek to build understanding, rather than destroy reputations and livelihoods. We can’t change history, but we can forge a better path forward as people of good will who choose to reason together.
We appeal to people of good will to deepen their understanding of each other with the aim of building bridges of understanding for a more just society here in Southern Maryland, so that we can be examples of civil discourse for our children and grandchildren. And we invite letter writers to follow those rules of politeness as well, as we gear up for an important presidential election in four months.