For the last few months, I have been writing about our current political conditions. More specifically, I have expressed my concern for our nation’s future, if President Trump were to be reelected. It looks as if we will have a new president on January 20, 2021, unless Mr. Trump does the unthinkable, and fights to remain in office as an unfaithful president.
I feel like it’s time for me to step back from this rather contentious topic and take a broader, perhaps more hopeful look around. To use a phrase that Tracy recently reminded me of that we learned years ago from the Kansas Leadership Center: it’s time to take a trip to the balcony and get an overview – to see what’s really going on – to see the forest, in spite of, and because of, the trees.
The view I see from this position is simultaneously concerning and encouraging. Regardless of who takes a seat behind the desk in the Oval Office come the evening of January 20, we are still a very polarized nation. My last blog post posed the question, “Can we find common ground?” I’d like to expand upon that just a bit. By common ground, I do not mean: can we agree on everything and just get along? More specifically, I ask us to consider: can we find common goals for our future that serve all Americans and find a way to work together towards those goals?
I received quite a bit of push-back on the idea of common ground: “We’re too divided, we want different things, we can never work together.”
To this type of response, I say – we CAN do better. I believe we MUST do better. “It will never work,” is an easy, simplistic, knee-jerk reaction to this very challenging question.
If we are willing to dig deeper, I believe we can find a lot of common ground on which to stand. I ask you to consider this: think of those on the other side of your own hot-button issue…do you not think that the “other” side of your favorite issue desires many of the same things in life you do?
Regardless of what your particular hot-button issue may be, I have to believe there are some areas in which we can find agreement.
I think we could all get behind a safer, more secure future for our country. A future where it is not only possible but likely, that our children will have it better than their parents.
Perhaps we could also agree on some of the following…
How about more people NOT dying from preventable diseases?
Enough food for all of us?
Quality education for all children?
A dependable, reasonably well-paying job for every person able to work?
What about electing people at the state and national level who will actually represent us, not political action committees and big money lobbyists?
Let’s bring it even closer to home. Can we agree that it would be great to have:
Decent streets and nice parks for our kids to play in?
Affordable safe housing for you and your neighbor?
Less crime on the streets of your city?
I do believe we can find common ground if we look hard enough.
So, what is it about our current highly polarized condition that I find encouraging?
It seems that now, more than at any time in my life, people are paying attention.
I believe we have a more engaged, aware, and politically energized populace than we have had in many decades. There’s no doubt, we’re in a time of pain. But often, through pain, comes growth.
For much of my adult life, it seems that many of us have thrown up our hands and said, “Oh well, those folks in DC are going to do what they want anyway, why should I care?”
It feels as if the tide is turning – and more of us are saying, “That’s it – those guys in DC had their chance, now let’s see if we can fix this thing before it’s too late.”
My hope is that through this time of pain, we may find a way to care for each other again. I am hopeful that the more we pay attention to each other, perhaps we can find a way to actually talk to each other, rather than at each other. If we do this, we have a tremendous opportunity to move in the right direction.
I believe we CAN turn the pain and strife of the last four years, and this last election, into movement in a positive direction. It won’t be easy, and at times it might be painful.
I’ve heard talk of a second civil war looming. We must find a way to avoid such conflict and turn that energy into a PEACEFUL revolution. A time when we rediscover the promise of America, for all, and actually roll up our sleeves, get to work, and find a way through the chaos to continue this great experiment.
Not just for the wealthy white landowners. Not just for the large corporations. Not just for the chosen few with the right diploma, the right last name, or the correct connection on K Street.
For all of US.
And I know – revolutions are rarely peaceful, but I believe this one can be.
Like almost everything in life, it comes down to a choice.
Are we (am I?) going to choose to find a way to have a productive conversation with those on the other side of an issue, and really listen to their point of view, or are we going to be aggressive and combative, searching for the best way to prove them wrong?
I believe we can find a way towards common ground. Our lives and the future of this country may depend upon it.
Hi Darren. Thank you for this thoughtful article. It’s Always useful to step back for a view of the big picture. In my experience it helps us find common ground if we are 1. Humble. 2. Curious. 3.Listening. Asking the question “tell me more about that.” Is a powerful and less contentious way to ask “why do you think that?” But we have to be comfortable not being heard in return sometimes.
On the issue of our country’s future I think if we dream about the country we want our Children and Grandchildren to have, we’ll start to find common ground. By focusing on the next generation it moves us past current points of contention. Then we can ask ourselves what is one thing I can do to move toward making that dream a reality. It’s ok if it’s a small step we just need to keep moving toward the dream.
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Thanks for the feedback, Shawn! I like the “tell me more about that” phrasing. And I totally agree about thinking of our kids in all this – Hannah, Megan, and Grace are a big part of why I started to speak out.