An asteroid is going to hit the earth in 24 hours destroying us all. Okay – so you prefer tsunamis or earthquakes or a visit from your mother-in-law. Whatever. Let’s assume we all have very little time left. What are you going to do? Will you argue with your neighbor about the leaves from his tree that blew into your yard? Will you complain to the Mayor about excessive traffic calming devices? Will you argue with your Dad about the unfair burden left to you by spendthrift baby boomers?
Most of you probably won’t do any of those things. If you really only have 24 hours left, there is a lot to do. So what are you going to do? Of course, you will do things that are most important to you. Some of you will spend time with your families. Some of you will pray. Some of you will make apologies to people you might have harmed. Some of you will go to Vegas one more time. Get the point? There are things that are really important to each of us and there are things that are less so.
Why am I saying this? Just to remind you that we all have a lot in common. It is pretty naïve to think that we are all alike in this regard – but it seems to me that most of us share a lot of values. In the economic sphere we want to do the best we can to provide security, food, and general well-being for our families. Most of us would like to see more effective ways to reduce crime, improve education, reduce discrimination, and so on. Most of us would like to find effective ways to take care of the earth’s resources and not waste them. Most of us want to be healthy. I don’t know many religions, community groups, or political organizations that stand against any of these things. We have common bonds and we share in the need to attain our goals in the best ways. We are deprived when we can’t attain our goals.
Today we are involved with very large short-term and long-term challenges. If there was ever a time to see our shared interdependence it is now – when the stakes are the highest. We don’t have a lot of time to mess around. Solving these challenges unites us and brings us all benefits.
Yet we fiddle while Rome burns. We point fingers and call people names. I talk to so many people who are sick and tired of the process. It really is outrageous yet the solution is simple. We are in it together. Okay – so we come from a lot of different backgrounds and we don’t agree on a lot of things. But we do agree on the key things. My liberal friend tells me that conservatives are rich, hateful jerks who don’t want to help people get out of poverty. Do you REALLY believe most conservatives are such cold-hearted brutes? Is it possible that they have different beliefs about the best ways to approach the poverty issue? My conservative friend says that liberals are all heart and no brain and won’t rest until they have spent all our money. Are most liberals really like that or do they have a different way of viewing the problem?
The sad truth is that NOTHING will get done to relieve poverty or our other challenges because we won’t even talk to each other. Rather than spend a little time actually listening and talking to each other, we spew invectives and platitudes and all manner of ugliness. Where did we learn this behavior? Why do we prefer to do nothing about our most pressing problems? Is there no stomach left for real discussion and negotiation? Could we not go into discussions with good faith -- with the understanding that all parties want a good shared outcome? Could we not honestly negotiate knowing that we might win a few – lose a few.You probably think I am off my rocker. And maybe I am. But I really think change is going to come because the average person is starting to realize that we now have the worst group of politicians in memory on both sides of the aisle. The change will not be a red/blue Party thing so I am betting that the middles of both parties are going to get rid of the trouble-makers. Major political change can happen but only if we demand it. What can you do to get the message to these troublemakers? It is a very simple message – all of us need to require than political candidates pass the intuition test. First they have to stop all the self-defeating name-calling. Second, they have to show to us they are acting logically and in good faith with respect to our many challenges. At minimum we need to know that they are willing to: identify the problems, discuss and debate their solutions, and give us results that make us better as a people and a nation.