SALT LAKE CITY —
At rare moments, we see true nobility in action. When we do, all the petty bitterness and perpetual rage of political life in early 21st century America seems to fade, like a 2-year-old's tantrum at a public event, into meaningless noise.
Brent Taylor, mayor of North Ogden and a major in the Utah National Guard, didn't write his final Facebook post with any intention it would be widely quoted by the media. He had no idea it would be his final Facebook post. No idea that he would die, allegedly at the hands of one of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces members he was training; an inside attack by someone who betrayed his fellow soldiers.
What he wrote was a reflection of who he was. It just happened to come at a time when we needed to read it.
"As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election (Tuesday), I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote," he wrote. "And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unite us than divide us. 'United we stand, divided we fall.' God bless America."
The question is, when was this sentiment most meaningful to his fellow citizens?
Until last night, I'm guessing, it easily resonated with many Americans. That's because they were caught up in Election Day magic — that indescribable feeling many of us get each November when voters realize they get to register their true feelings in the form of a dot on an official ballot.
The Atlantic featured a question on the cover of its October issue: "Is democracy dying?" Despite the thoughtful reflections inside by author and columnist Anne Applebaum, the question itself seemed a little blasphemous on Election Day.
Weren't we all feeling the magic? Didn't we hear about how voter turnout was higher than expected, and that Utah was poised to easily outpace the 46 percent who showed up during the last midterm election in 2014? Didn't we notice all the happy posts on our own Facebook feed from people who voted and were proud of it?
But now it is Wednesday morning and you know at least most of the winners and losers. (I, however, am writing this on Tuesday and remain in ignorant bliss.) Maybe some of your favorite candidates lost. Maybe one or more of the ballot issues in Utah didn't go your way.
Even the voter turnout might not seem so impressive when you consider it is a measure of the percentage of registered voters who showed up, not a measure of all eligible voters. When you figure in all those citizen adults who never bothered to register, despite Utah's commendable new law allowing them to do so even on Election Day, the true state of American democracy may not seem so great.
And then there is the grim realization that from this day forward, the 2020 campaign season is underway.
Taylor's concern seems directed more toward the cold reality of Wednesday morning than the idealism of Tuesday. Will we remember "we have far more as Americans that unite us than divide us?" Will we feel the urge to emphasize those similarities or to exploit and distort the differences?
It's important here to note that Taylor was much more than the sum of his last Facebook post. His record of service in Utah demonstrated a devotion to principles over fraternity. Look at his service on the Utah Transit Authority board, for example.
While other trustees last year voted for a revamped retirement plan that gave some executives more than three times what every other employee gets, Taylor was the only one who objected, calling it "not right."
He also was the lone dissenter to the agency's 2018 budget, believing it didn't represent the best use of public money.
He wasn't just being obstinate. His stated concern was with gaining the trust of taxpayers.Comment on this story
Nobility has everything to do with demonstrating a devotion to high morals and ideals. If Taylor didn't possess this, he likely still would be with us. His decision to join the military solidified after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. As he told the Deseret News last January, "God, country and family" were the most important things in his life.
It's up to everyone who read his final words and took comfort and inspiration from them to decide — were they meant just for Tuesday, or for Wednesday morning and beyond?