Community Gathering Can Foster Unity

Written by Christina Bruner Sonsire

Until recently, I was politically complacent. Even though I didn’t always agree with decisions made by our elected officials, I trusted the process, and believed our system of government had enough checks and balances to be self-sustaining regardless of the challenges presented.

But I am not sure about that now, and suspect I am not alone in feeling that way. It’s what drove a nearly double capacity crowd to the January Political Pundit Night at Elmira’s Clemens Center, where I served as a panelist.

It’s the reason Rep. Tom Reed’s recent town hall meetings were so full, they had to be held outside.

 It’s why marches are being held across the nation every weekend, social media is full of political discussions, and people are searching for something constructive to do in response to what is happening in Washington.

And it’s why the Chemung County Democratic Party has chosen to host an event at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Elks Club at East Gray and Baldwin streets in downtown Elmira. Featuring light snacks and a cash bar, the Community Gathering will give Twin Tiers residents an opportunity to meet our Democratic Party leaders, and speak with local doctors, scientists, teachers, elected officials and community activists about the important issues facing all of us, such as health care, the environment, workers’ rights, women’s rights, diversity, veterans affairs, education and the arts. It will also bring together many Twin Tiers grassroots organizations to provide residents with information about upcoming events and ways to get involved politically.

The Community Gathering is open to everyone, regardless of party affiliation or political ideology.

Self-identifying as a member of a political party or bearer of a particular ideological brand is often a fluid process throughout life. As recently as 2015, I was a member of the Chemung County Republican Party’s Executive Committee, even though I did not align ideologically with Republicans’ views on many issues. I am now a Democrat, having decided after a great deal of introspection throughout the past election cycle that the Democratic Party is a much better fit for me.

At the end of the day, these political divisions are far outweighed by what we have in common. We are one community, facing many difficult, serious issues together. Perpetuating separation along purely partisan and ideological lines only weakens us.

Our strength comes from the willingness to engage our neighbors face-to-face about important matters with respect for each other. The problems our society faces may not be going anywhere soon, but coming together as a community to address them can do a lot to hasten the process.

Christina Sonsire, of Elmira, is a partner at the Ziff Law Firm in Elmira.

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