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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks

Common Ground

I was a junior in college, and I had been dating a guy pretty seriously for a while when I decided it wasn’t working. After a fairly bad breakup, I was telling my mom about it. I’ll admit I was expecting some sympathy because, even though I was the one breaking it off, it had been rough.

“Well, thank heavens for that,” was all my mom said. I remember looking at her in disbelief for a moment or two. She had always been supportive and comforting. I guess this reaction was an indication of how much she disliked him.

There are two things to keep in mind here. First, I had not had a single inkling she disliked him - and so intensely, apparently. Second, my mom is horrible at hiding her feelings. So how had I not known this or seen any indications?

As we talked about it, her second comment was accompanied by a gigantic eye roll on her part. “He had a strong opinion about EVERYTHING.” My next question seemed pretty logical in my mind, “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Her answer jolted me, and started the shift from “I know everything, and my parents know nothing” to “Wow, I have a lot to learn.” Mom went on to explain that if she had told me how she felt, I would have run all the harder towards him.

As I thought about it in the days to come, I became aware of couples who thrived despite at least one set of parents being opposed to the union. A few years down the road when the parents capitulated and accepted the marriage, the young couple decided they couldn’t make it work afterall and split up. Coincidence?

Around 1774, most Americans were bonded in defiance of England and its unfair treatment of the colonies. Yet, less than 100 years later after jointly winning our independence together, we were fighting each other in the Civil War. A common enemy, whether it’s disapproving parents or a cruel parent country, unites us in a way little else can. We forget our differences, be they petty and small or something more fundamental, and we focus on our similarities.

When I see the news lately, I am heart-sick for the pain and suffering and pure fear I see the Ukrainians going through, and I will admit to feeling a white-hot anger for Putin and his Russian leaders.

The fact that is quickly becoming blatantly obvious is that I am not alone. The whole world seems to be feeling the same.

Sanctions are being hurled and decreed from every corner. Countries and heads of state are placing financial and economic sanctions; soccer and many different sports are kicking Russia and its teams from all competitions; actors, dancers, musicians and artists from all different disciplines are resigning, protesting and leaving; even retail stores world-wide are refusing to sell Russian vodka.

As sanction after sanction falls into place, we seem to hear the entire world shouting out a collective rallying cry. Could it be that when the ideals of love, peace, and kindness don’t seem to be enough, a sense of injustice can unite us in a way nothing else can? Could it be a common enemy has allowed us to focus on our similarities instead of what separates us?

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