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That which unites us

That which unites us That which unites us

Dear Fred, When a road is paved, ideally the result is a smooth surface without cracks, bumps or depressions.

It doesn’t stay that way for long, though.

The stress of daily traffic combined with extremes of weather cause sections to heave and other areas to compress. Stress causes cracks to form as the binding agents separate from the aggregate material. Water enters these cracks and through freezing and thawing makes them spread wider, causing chunks to break up and shatter.

Depending on how well and how strongly the base was constructed, the surface blemishes will remain just that. In areas where the winters are mild and the weather less extreme, a road surface may go decades without needing more than cosmetic repairs or the occasional re-striping.

As anyone who has driven on Wisconsin’s roads know, we don’t enjoy that luxury. Roads here go from hot to cold and back again sometimes in the course of a single week or even day. They are buffeted by rain, snow and ice and the machinery and materials used to keep them passable and safe extract their own punishments.

In order to keep roads in good repair, crews work each spring to clean out and fill in the cracks. Culverts are installed and maintained to divert the water that would destroy the base, and binding fabric is placed during construction to ensure that the base remains strong.

By this point future reporter Fred, as you read this in the year 2120 for your 100th anniversary recap of the COVID-19 pandemic, you are likely scratching your head and thinking that while road construction is interesting, you hope I am going to get to a point sometime soon. Just be patient a little longer.

I was thinking about roads this week as I was driving around getting pictures and seeing the crews busy with spring crack filling projects.

Each school day morning, my son, Alex, stands in his bedroom and along with the principals at Medford Area Middle School recites the Pledge of Allegiance as part of the morning announcements. It is the same morning ritual regardless of if the students are in their classrooms at their kitchen tables, or their make shift bedroom classrooms.

The morning recitation reminds the students that they are not alone, despite pandemic concerns keeping us apart. Indeed, by reciting the pledge, they are affirming that they are part of a greater whole. A nation that despite its differences is bound together with strong bonds.

In times of stress, the bonds that join us together become frayed and are at risk of being broken. There are plenty who seek to exploit these cracks, seeping in to the cracks and crevasses as innocuously as spring rains do to road surfaces. Their mission is to wash away the base and expand the divisions. Some do this simply to watch the world burn, others have their own dark motives and agendas, recognizing that a divided people are easily conquered.

As with the road crews diligently filling the cracks and resealing the surfaces, it takes work to ensure the bonds joining us as a unified people are not allowed to decay.

As analogies go, comparing a road surface to the stresses facing our communities and country can only go so far. You see, unlike the inanimate gravel and sand that makes up the aggregate material in roads, human beings have the ability to act on their own. Individuals make choices and informed decisions. They have the free will to stand up each morning alone in their bedrooms and recite the pledge of allegiance, renewing support in the flag whose cloth binds us together, or they can choose to follow demagogues and charlatans spreading wild conspiracy theories and working to tear down faith in our basic institutions. We as individuals need to make that choice. Do we stand united in times of stress, or do we crumble and wash away?

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.