We grew up together. We worked on a farm and at the peanut mill from the time we were young kids. He was the athlete. I was the good student. We lived in the same room until I left for college, then lived next door to each other while we raised our children. We worked together for over 40 years.
If you know my brother, Ernest, and me, then you have already heard all this. You probably also know that while we have been connected for almost all our lives, we are not like two peas in a pod. A more apt description is probably that we are as different as night and day.
Our interests are different. Our circle of friends is somewhat different. We enjoy different music. We read different types of books, like different kinds of foods, and enjoy traveling to different types of places. To sum it up, he is a Georgia Bulldog. I am an Auburn Tiger. You get the picture.
My own children have inherited this same but different gene. Catherine and Elizabeth are the biggest blessings of my life, but they too are as different as night and day. It does not mean that I love one more than the other or enjoy the company of one more than the other. They are my precious daughters and I love them despite and because of their differences.
Our country is a place that reminds me of my relationship with my brother, and the relationship between my own daughters. Americans are different. In some cases, we are more different than you could ever imagine.
In the heat of a bruising election, we mostly self-identify as Republican or Democrats. We are white, black, Asian, Indian, Native Americans, and so many more. We are fiercely religious though most citizens do not attend church.
I believe, deep in my heart, that we still have more in common than those things that divide us. I believe we love the idea of a United States of America, even though we are not united on many things. I believe that we have the capacity to love someone, get along with someone, work with someone even if they are different from us.
Our path to a reunited America does not have to be that complicated. It just involves a little give and take, a lot of trust, and a commitment to the future of our country, even if that future is not exactly in keeping our own individual vision.
My family, like many across this country, has been divided throughout this election. After the second close election in a row, we have different results. No matter what your personal political feelings, I believe the election results will stand. If so, what do we plan to do? What do you plan to do?
Ernest and I valued our relationship as brothers more than we valued the many things that made us so different. Almost like an old married couple, we tried very hard not to let the night close without making amends. We both have apologized when we still thought we were right. We have both agreed to something we did not like just to make peace.
We believed our company and our relationship was more important that winning an argument. Just as I believe our collective role as citizens in the future of this country is more important than who won the election.
Ernest and I could not have built a great company without compromise. We would not have been successful without reaching out to the other side, making amends, and even forgiving when it might not have been necessary.
It is time for America to reach out like you would reach out to your brother. It is time to encourage reconciliation, attempt understanding, and work together for a common cause. It is time to see your archenemy on the other side of the aisle as just a different member of your family. Your American family.
Give our family a chance to work together for a little while. We can all be as different as night and day, but it is worth the effort. If it does not work out, then heaven forbid, there is always another election.
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]