The death of debate

Obama-McCain Debate (by flickr user David Poe)
Obama-McCain Debate (by flickr user David Poe)

Have you noticed lately how things have changed in the area of public discourse?  We have all heard stories about how things were many years ago.  Even the days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill are lauded as the good old days and an example of how the two sides of the debate in America could get along.

Oh how things change.  Now the two sides would not be likely to be able to agree on a lunch selection.  But what are the reasons for it?  There are many views.

How did this start?

One view is that things started spiraling out of control when President Obama was elected.  Some people said that those on the right were racist or a thousand other things and could not work with the man.  Others said that things had shifted and the right was dying in America.

Another view is that George W. Bush was so blatantly arrogant that the opposition had little option but to oppose him without any apology or even reason for doing so.

Still others would lay it at the feet of Bill Clinton, who disrespected George Bush Sr. when he ran against him.  He wouldn’t call the man President Bush and even after he got in the office, he received, ahem, certain favors, in the oval office and things went from there.

Is the answer found there?  It might be in part, but it is far more insidious these days.

The danger of compromise

I can remember a time that I wrote a piece about the benefits of compromise.  Indeed it was suggested that compromise was the move of people that were prepared to surrender.

When the piece got into the public eye, I received a call from a lawmaker that told me, at great length, how wrong I was.  He would not budge and continued to hammer at me.  Eventually I had to run for an appointment, but the experience was a first indication to me that things were changing pretty drastically.

Now what we have are people separating into groups to believe only certain things.  They surround themselves with those that believe only as they do and anyone that differs is ostracized at the earliest convenience.  I personally have seen things like this with people that decided a philosophical difference was reason enough to unfriend me on social media.  I guess if that is the cost of friendship, we all lose.  Here’s why I believe that:

It’s in the numbers

According to, there are roughly 7.4 billion people in the world.  Based on that amount of people, you can imagine that we might have a difference of opinion on something somewhere along the way.  While many of us might agree on one thing or another, eventually you will run into something that you have a difference of opinion on.  If we follow the logic of current debate, as prescribed to by those in all areas of the political spectrum, that would mean that we should get into our little camps and throw rotten fruit at each other.  What would this eventually solve?  Sadly, we are seeing the results of that in the US Congress, where no one agrees with no one else and they all like to blame each other instead of address the problem.

So what is the solution?

Here is what I think we need to do.  First, let’s admit that in this nation there is no guarantee that we are not going to be offended by someone or something somewhere along the way.  We are not guaranteed as a right that we will not be offended.  Let’s start by getting used to that idea.

Second, let’s agree that while we differ in our views, we are all members of the human race.  What we do has an impact on others.

Third, we were all taught something in Kindergarten that I think we all need a refresher in.  When you do something, own up to it.  Or to put it in other terms, depending on the situation, if you make a mess, clean it up.  Such things would solve so many problems.

Fourth, while the vast majority of politicos believe that blaming the other side is a value that everyone enjoys, it isn’t.  The vast majority of us just want to see things get done.  Call us crazy, those of us that are average joes, but we just want to see results from those that we elect to things.  That means that your little letter after your name in Congress means very little.  What does mean something is whether or not you get things done.  Be willing to compromise and get a few things done and we might be more pleased than if you were more apt to blame others and get nothing done.  I get that there is a sense of moral purity, but in the end, nothing gets done and we end up with what we currently have.

Finally, we need to remember that my disagreeing with you or your disagreement with me does not mean that we disapprove of each other as a person.  It simply means that we don’t see eye to eye.  Instead of running each other through the wringer, how about something where we hash out our differences, use our brains and agree that each of us sees things from a different perspective.  Mine is different from yours, but I might see something you don’t and vice versa.

We need to be able to talk to one another and solve problems.  The last time I remember, problems aren’t solved by blame and ridiculous “playground-style” arguments.  They are solved by each side rolling up its sleeves and working with the opposite side to come up with a third way to move ahead.  So many have forgotten, but it is worthwhile to try.