I found myself thinking about Rodney King today. A story in the Los Angeles Times details a controversy surrounding two crosses that have been erected at Camp Pendleton to honor four service members killed in Iraq. The crosses were erected by a military chaplain, who did not consult nor seek permission from the chain of command and have become a place where service members leave mementos of fallen comrades.
Need I even mention that the crosses have become the subject of an increasingly bitter dispute? That some folks are complaining that the crosses are illegal under separation of church and state while other folks insist that service members have the right to have this memorial? The thing is, I believe strongly in separation of church and state. If any service members were being required to visit this memorial or if service members of other faiths were being prohibited from erecting memorials in a style in keeping with their faiths, I would be the first to object. But come on!
It sometimes seems to me that we Americans have completely forgotten how to be respectful and accommodating to people we disagree with. So much so that it felt almost like a miracle last week when the friend with whom I had a political disagreement with on a Facebook thread left a kind comment on Let’s Not Talk About Politics, Please and agreed with me how horribly divisive it seems so many issues become these days. I don’t claim to have any great ideas of how we might be able to get past the extreme contentiousness and polarization that seem to have overtaken our society. But I sure do long for the days when most people were capable of disagreeing without being disagreeable. In the memorable words of Rodney King– “can’t we all just get along?”