Andrew Johnson became president of the United States of America after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. His was not an easy task. The Civil War had just ended and the nation was still deeply wounded and divided. Johnson had great difficulties in his administration. Congress and the people seemed to reject all that he tried to do. Johnson was a good man and his deepest desire was to see that the South was received back into the Union without punishment or prejudice. Congress rejected that plan and ignored most of Johnson’s policies, and eventually they even tried to impeach him. He was found innocent of the charges against him, but was still viewed as guilty by the majority of the American people.
During his last months as president a bitter feud developed between Johnson and General Ulysses Grant. The final blow came when Johnson’s own party rejected his nomination at its political convention and nominated his arch-enemy Grant instead. Grant was elected president by a large popular majority. Johnson was deeply hurt and very bitter. He refused to ride in the carriage with Grant to the inauguration.
We are all guilty of snubbing our noses at people who offend us, hurt us, criticize us, and put us down. Like Johnson, we are so hurt and so bitter by the way they have treated us that we refuse to ride in same carriage with them. That is, we stop talking to them, we refuse to associate with them, we sever our relationship with them. This happens in families, in neighborhoods, in churches, in politics; it happens everywhere and to every person.
It is an easy matter to snub the snob, but when we do so, we become a snob. It is easy to gossip about the gossips and do just as much damage to the lives of innocent people as they do, but then we become just his or her kind. It is easy to criticize those who are critical of us, but then we become the harsh critic which we abhor in the other. It is easy to hate the hateful, but then we become hateful persons ourselves. We are like thermometers when we refuse to ride in the same carriage, for we reflect the same temperament (temperature) as the carriage occupant who we believe has created our hurt and our wound. It would be so much better if we were thermostats—attempting to affect the situation rather than simply reflecting (like the thermometer) what goes on around us. It is always better to get in the carriage where there is an opportunity to talk and resolve and affect. To refuse to ride in the carriage only widens the gap—and diminishes the opportunity to affect a better situation.