For those of us who live in Joplin, Missouri, the arrival of President Obama in our tornado-ravaged community May 29 was a godsend.
Even most of those who are in total disagreement with the president's policies (and in this corner of the state, the numbers are legion) received a moral and spiritual uplift from the words provided by the president, Gov. Jay Nixon, and Aaron Brown, minister of St. Paul's Methodist Church, a casualty of the fierce fury that nature wreaked upon our community, during the memorial service.
For some in this conservative area, the visitor who will arrive Monday, July 4, to appear at a celebration at a park in the tornado area is even bigger than the president.
At 8 p.m. on the 235th anniversary of our nation's birth, Rush Limbaugh, as part of an advertising promotion for one of his sponsors, will speak to city residents and the hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers, both from within the city and from across the nation who have banded to help Joplin recover.
I have no problem with Limbaugh arriving with a refrigerator truck filled with iced tea from his sponsor. I am grateful that people from all over the United States, and not just from within our city limits, asked Limbaugh to send his truck of tea to Joplin.
However, on the same Friday show in which he announced he would be in Joplin, Limbaugh said the following:
I'm gonna tell you something else is gonna happen at Landreth Park in Joplin on Monday night: We're gonna grow the Republican Party. It's a Fourth of July celebration. We have the Harvard survey from yesterday: Fourth of July parades breed Republicans. Young kids at Fourth of July parties tend to end up being Republican. Fourth of July celebrations do not have any patriotic impact on Democrats. This is from a Harvard survey. We had it yesterday. Now, you Democrats, you can try to throw cold water all you want on what we're doing Monday night in Joplin, but I just want to remind you what's actually happening Monday night in Joplin, Missouri. Not only the continuing rebirth of a great community, and not only the joining of people coming together for a singular purpose (well, actually multipurpose) but we're also growing the conservative movement. Try that!
During another segment of the program, Limbaugh repeated his earlier criticism that the president waited a week to come to Joplin while he was in Europe.
Limbaugh has a First Amendment right to criticize those whose opinions differ from his. No one questions that. But hopefully, he can see that a Fourth of July celebration at Landreth Park is not the time nor the place to do it.
The people who came to Joplin immediately after the tornado and in the days and weeks afterward were not just rock-ribbed Republicans, though undeniably they were here. Liberals by the thousands were also cleaning up debris, helping salvage treasured belongings, and offering moral support to people when they needed it the most.
These were people who care about their nation just as deeply as Limbaugh and his followers do.
When President Obama arrived seven days after the tornado, he offered support to people who were suffering and it did not matter that this community voted solidly against him three years ago. There was no hint of the divisiveness that has darkened so much of the day-to-day discourse in our nation.
Hopefully, when Rush Limbaugh makes his presence felt in our city July 4, it will be in the same spirit. A park in the middle of an area that has seen 158 people killed and thousands of homes and businesses wiped off the map does not need to be a site for growing the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or any other political organization.
The only thing we need to be growing is together.
When you come to Joplin, Rush, please bring the tea and leave the tea party behind.