I’ve been riding my bike 10 miles before 6:30 am on most days (thank you, COVID!) Yesterday morning, I admired a blazing, almost-full Halloween moon setting in the west. My breath turned to steam in the sub-freezing temps as I pedaled furiously down dark bumpy streets, ruminating upon the next steps for Team America.
Seven days have passed since I wrote the Team America blog. I thank each of you who shared your observations, deep thoughts, and ideas for action on Facebook, LinkedIn, and email. All perspectives are valuable and important.
Have you ever seen In the Heat of the Night? It summarizes our choices for Team America very well. I recommend it. In 1967 it won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Here’s the story, in a nutshell.
IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT
A businessman from the north has come to an extremely part of Mississippi to build a plant. The small town embraces the opportunity for jobs and an improved economic future. Unfortunately, in the heat of the night, Mr. Businessman is murdered. The new chief of police instructs his deputies to “check the railroad station” in case the murderer is trying to escape. The deputy finds a Black man waiting for a train and promptly arrests him. The Black man turns out to be Virgil Tibbs, a homicide detective from Philly. Once that fact is revealed, Mr. Tibbs’ boss in Philly encourages him to remain and help find the murderer. Virgil Tibbs wants nothing to do with the White cops. The White cops feel the same. Both sides try to extract themselves so that they do not have to interact. The situation comes to a head when the widow of the murdered man insists that the two work together to solve her husband’s murder or “I’ll pack up my engineers and leave you to yourselves.” The promise of local jobs and economic growth are on the line. Cooler heads prevail, and a rough and tumble partnership ensues. Through this process, there are conflicting agendas. The White cops WANT the Black man to be the murderer. The Black man, Mr. Tibbs, WANTS the White cotton farm owner to be the murder. They are both wrong. Only when they begin to collaborate and respect one another’s abilities do they solve the murder. In the process, they save each other from the consequences of a fragmented world and emerge with a new point of view. They are less divided than when they began.
Perhaps you’re thinking, that was oh so 1967! Perhaps. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s oh so 2020. Maybe In The Heat Of The Night perfectly reflects the potential and challenges of Team America.
Team America is not a new concept. JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” We nod sagely at this wisdom from those leaders, and then hurl insults at those we disagree with. It’s so easy to be divided.
For those who were ready and willing to try FOR ONE WEEK – ONE WEEK – to treat everyone as My Fellow American – thank you. I hope you found it an interesting and productive exercise. I hope it becomes part of your ongoing leadership practice.
IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
For those that were not ready, I ask you this question: When? When will you be ready? When your guy or gal wins? Next month? Next year? Four years from now? Never?
When the sun rises on November Whatever and the election is decided, two truths remain:
- Half the nation will be disappointed and sad. It will be a tough and emotionally challenging time. All the more reason to take good care of ourselves and be kind to one another.
- We will have very many of the very same problems in the very same places as we do today. Solutions will require each of us to help in our town, in our own way, with the time and talent we have. In Michigan, where I live, the budget director has been quoted as saying that even if he cut 12 departments altogether – including education – he’s still $1 Billion dollars short. I’m watching my city’s businesses fail. The yoga studio. The Hungarian restaurant. Clairmont Laundry. The little antiques store. I do not believe we have grasped even 20% of the long-term challenges we will face. To overcome, we will need Team America.
THE MOST IRONIC THING
I took some heat for that first blog post. I accept the heat because it’s part of putting yourself out there. It’s part of taking a stand. It’s part of sharing ideas for change. JFK and MLK said it better than me, but we had the same idea in mind. My intent was noble.
The most ironic thing of all is this: The idea to write about Team America was the result of my conversation with a wonderful friend who told me that he doesn’t vote. He doesn’t vote because he believes in Team America. President Schmesident could win, and he would support him or her. How refreshing. I won’t share his name so that he doesn’t get pummeled. But he’s a welcome teammate on Team America. I admire and respect him.
I admire and respect you. The invitation to join Team America is an open invitation.
No matter what, I remain undaunted. I remain committed. I remain hopeful. I will not stop believing in, pursuing, or rooting for Team America because we’re in the same boat, now.