By Mary Valentyn Pribbenow


There is always risk when I sit down, stare at the blank page, and begin to type. I feel a bit more angst than usual because the subject I want to write about is touchy at best and disgusting at worst! If there was some way to make this eight letter word smaller here, I would do it. But since there isn’t, I’ll just get it out there.  Politics! I’m gonna write about politics. There it is. You can choose to quit reading if you want, and I will not take offense. The good Lord knows there has been a lot written and said about the 2016 Election. If you care to read further, I hope you find something new to think about…and pray about.

In the mid 1980’s, I had the privilege of helping coach the Kimberly High School girls’ varsity basketball team. The head coach at the time was Lee Levknecht. His first year as the girls coach, 1978-1979, had been my senior year of high school. The formation I received from Coach Levknecht, both when I played for him and when I coached next to him, stays with me to this day.

Several years after he finished coaching in Kimberly, I saw him at an alumni basketball tournament. We started talking and catching up. As often happens with the important people in my life, our conversation did not remain just surface small talk. Coach and I were chatting about kids and competition. I don’t recall his exact words, but I won’t forget the essence of what he said. “I don’t know when it happened Mary, but at some point it seems, we went from seeing the other team as our opponent to seeing them as our enemy. Kids want to beat the competition because they hate them. We need to get back to a healthy sense of competition.” Coach Levknecht seemed puzzled by this realization and I heard concern in his voice, for good reason.

Fast forward to 2016. We find ourselves nearing the end of what seems like one of the longest election seasons in recent memory. I don’t think I’m risking my good name by stating that the two presidential candidates have long ago abandoned the idea of seeing the other as a worthy opponent, and instead, have approached each other as enemies. There has been so much anger, vitriol, character assassination, and lack of proper decorum between the two, that the prospect of voting for either one of them seems ridiculous. There is no turning back, though. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, one or the other will soon become the 45th President of these United States of America. And then what? I wonder what will happen on November 9 when the votes are counted?

I hope and pray we wake up and realize that we are all on the same team, in the same boat; that while we may have opposing views about how to solve the big problems in this country, we are not enemies.

I believe the vast majority of people live in the middle. And what do I mean by ‘live in the middle?’ Most of us have much more in common than our political party platforms would ever allow us to believe. I am guessing most of us want clean water, clean air, and a clean planet for generations to come. We just may differ in our ideas about how to achieve it. Most Americans want quality education, state of the art medical care, adequate employment opportunities, fair wages, safe streets, religious freedom; a chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Again, the means to achieve these standards may be different, but the desire for them is strong, true, and dare I say, unifying? Let’s get behind that, shall we? Let’s get behind the idea that with a little give and take, some compromise, and civil conversation, unity is not only achievable, but it is sustainable. Let’s applaud healthy competition among opponents and let’s stop viewing people who want what we want, folks who live in the middle where we live, as our enemies.

“Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.” ~Pope Francis