This “We don’t know each other” and there are “two Americas” talk is garbage. We do know each other. We know what’s important. We know what’s good and decent. We know what’s admirable and upright. We know what’s compassionate and kind.
When it comes to good people who are living life well, there’s really no mystery. This became obvious to me while reading Steve Young’s recently-released autobiography, QB: My Life Behind the Spiral.
During the 90’s, Young was my favorite football player. I loved the way he played, but I was as much a fan of Steve Young the person as Steve Young the quarterback. So, when I heard he was going to appear at a Bay Area book store, I made sure I was there. I love meeting people whom I’ve admired from afar.
He didn’t disappoint. We shook hands and had our picture taken. When I asked him what he’d most want me to teach my high school students, his recommendation, “Tell them to go through it, not around it,” is precious and relevant. Too many of my students make a habit of looking for easy.
Then I went home and read his book. Now I like and admire him even more. His willingness to bare his soul is refreshing. Here is this stud athlete openly confessing to his readers his deepest and most intimate fears, anxieties, frustrations, disappointments and beliefs.
I wish I could be his friend.
Yet, right there on page 87 Steve Young says that he is a conservative Republican. How can this be? I’m a liberal Democrat. In today’s America, I’m not supposed to like and admire a conservative Republican. I’m not supposed to want to be his friend. “We don’t know each other,” right?
Wrong. Because when Young writes that after the toughest 49er defeat of his career - the loss to Dallas in the 1992 season’s NFC championship game -
“A woman in a wheelchair was waiting to take a picture with me. I wasn’t in the best mood, but I kissed her on the cheek, and the photo was taken,” it hit me: “Political divides” are absurd. Ultimately, they mean so very little when compared to what should unite us - our universal values.
I like, admire and want to be Steve Young’s friend because he could be kind to an unknown woman in a wheelchair, even when so many people were being mean to him simply because the 49ers lost a football game -- and because he wasn’t Joe Montana. I like and admire him because of his grit, perseverance, self-discipline, self-deprecating sense of humor, compassion, humility, work ethic, fearlessness, willingness to take responsibility and his desire to help others and improve the world with his Forever Young Foundation.
If there is a divide in this country or this world, the fight shouldn’t be about right and left, conservative and liberal or even Republican and Democrat. It should be about whether or not you value our universal values.
If I like you, it won’t be because of your political views. It will be because of the kind of person you are. It will be because you’re good, decent, admirable, upright, compassionate and kind. And if I don’t like you, it won’t be because of your political views. It will be because of the kind of person you aren’t. It will be because you’re not good, decent, admirable, upright, compassionate and kind.
The divide we need to eliminate isn’t political. It's much bigger. It’s moral.