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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Park outing inspires musings on unity during these divisive times

As I weaved amidst the blankets and lawn chairs at Music in the Park Sunday night, I was like an old camp dog. I must have traversed the park three times as I searched for Kaitzer, the girls and April Kamar.

When you’re an old codger like me, being a camp dog is kinda cool. You get to see who's prepared the most delectable goodies and, since everyone invites you to partake, it’s almost like Thanksgiving. Over the years, I’ve learned to associate certain treats with particular neighbors. But I have to tell you when I’m craving a chocolate chip cookie; I’ll walk that park till the cows come home searching for Connie Alexander. Did you ever have a Connie Cookie?

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You’ve probably been to Music in the Park on a La Cañada summer Sunday. If you haven’t, then what the heck’s wrong with you? People are coming together to bask in the late afternoon sun, share a meal, dance, hang with friends and listen to the tunes.

What I find interesting is observing the continuance of what you might call La Cañada life. One that I found particularly nostalgic this past Sunday was a rite of passage. I remember when our girls were young children, they were affixed to Kaitzer and me as they dared not venture from the picnic blanket. But then, on one Music in the Park afternoon, the girls stepped from the blanket and together with the Christensen, Alexander and Rivett girls disappeared into the melee not to be seen again throughout the concert. J.R.R. Tolkien was right, “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

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I guess things happen because they’re supposed to happen; that’s just like the rite of passage.

The band Past Action Heroes had the folks rockin’ and a-reelin’ on Sunday. Their name was catchy, but heroes don’t wear boots and capes and I’ve never seen one leap a tall building in a single bound.

Heroes are regular people who, regardless of their circumstance, will stop to help another and just maybe, helping another will one day lead someone to help them. Regardless, everyone wants to be a hero until it’s time to do hero stuff.

On Sunday at Memorial Park the sense of community was refreshing. One would then think it’s possible that whatever it was that initially defined us could once again become the hallmark of an American. It appears that half the country entertains the idea that the other half wants to destroy all that’s best about America, and vice versa. The whiners who attempt to sway public opinion one way or another with narratives of conjecture void of critical thought demonstrate how unintelligible we are.

Both sides of the political divide rationalize their insanity as passion. My old boxing coach would tell me, "you fight with the head, not the heart."

Both parties seem to have abandoned the idea there’s a broad set of policies that work for everyone. Instead, the subtext to our disagreements is that each party represents the wishes of one coalition of groups, which can only be fulfilled at the expense of the others.

CBS explains this divide as “ideological polarization.” Combined with the politicization of nearly every facet of American life, it gives the sense that we’re living through what some call a “cold Civil War.”

If Music in the Park is any indication of what this country could be like, then it’s possible that once again we'll see more similarities than differences.

I'm siding with Abraham Lincoln, a true action hero: “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth.”

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at doctorjoe@ymail.com. Visit his website at doctorjoe.us.

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