It was a political statement but it has implications far beyond politics. On Election Day last Tuesday Roy Barnes, former Georgia Governor, offered an explanation for low voter turn out. He said the reason many people don’t vote in the primary election is because of the requirement that voters must declare themselves as either Republican or Democrat.

I think he is right. Many people choose to support a candidate on the basis of his or her position on certain issues, personal and professional history, or qualifications rather than the candidate’s political party.

I am grateful for the right to vote and I am in that growing group of people who choose not to be identified by political party labels.

I was born, raised, and have lived all my life in the United States and I am proud of my country. I am a Christian and a United Methodist and I am proud of my religion and my Church. I was born into the Jenkins family and I proudly claim that heritage.

At the same time I express pride in my country, Church, and family I realize that the actions and attitudes that each of them has exhibited have not always been right.

It is all to common for folks to believe if you are not “for” me, you are “against” me. This often results in expressions of disrespect and abuse. The “I am right and you are wrong” attitude does harm to others. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable but all too often that is not the case. Instead the result of differing opinions often lead to harsh and unkind expressions that cast the other person in a very negative light.

Whether in the political, religious, social, or personal realm there is a need for civility and mutual respect. It is a good thing to have strong convictions and it is alright to express your perspective but we should not become angry, demanding, or demeaning toward others.

I believe there are some absolutes. Everything is not relative. But we need to be tolerant of one another, treating everyone with dignity and respect even when there is a vast difference between our positions on issues. I am afraid that tolerance is in short supply these days. President John F. Kennedy said, “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”

There are things in our society that cause me to be concerned. I am discouraged and at times frightened about the future of the world. Nevertheless I am mindful that I need to give to every other human being every right that I claim for myself. And trust the outcome to God.

Jamie Jenkins