January 22, 2011
What power do you have to prevent gridlocked partisanship?
- Raise your hand if you have called others jerks, Neanderthals, stupid, idiots, bastards, morons, or anything else we tell our children they shouldn’t call another child on the playground.
- Raise your hand if the people to whom you address these words change their minds and thank you for pointing out the error of their ways.
- Raise your hand if you expect civility from those with contrary opinions, but tolerate extreme statements by those with whom you agree.
- Raise your hand if you think the reason there is corrosive and shrill partisanship in government and on the airways is because we, the people who elect those who represent us, don’t demand more civility.
- Raise your hand if you are willing to do something about it.
As long as we insist that our spouse, child, neighbor, brother, boss, co-worker, parent, aunt, uncle, etc. is the one who isn’t willing to compromise and won’t listen to reason — all the while shutting our minds to what he or she is really saying — we won’t find common ground.
And if we don’t open our minds to allow a new idea to slip under the ones we are sure are true, how can we expect our politicians to listen to the other side, let alone compromise in order to resolve the complex problems of a crowded world?
Can we change this atmosphere? Yep. Is this difficult to do? You betcha!
I know it is hard because I have strong opinions, always based on what I assume are solid facts, of course and I have to be really convinced another idea is superior. However, I try to “walk the walk” that I suggest others take and so will periodically read blogs by people with whom I don’t often agree.
Guess what? Sometimes I change my mind.
This happened recently on the Worldwide LWL (Life Without Limits) blog by Barry and Heather Goss in a post called The Big (Poor Me) Gamble. I skim their blog from time to time and find it is too conservative for my tastes. However, I was curious about what he had to say about Lesley Stahl’s segment on “Sixty Minutes” a few weeks back, about gambling machines. Apparently they now create slot machines that “program” players to want to play more by designing them to give constant positive feedback; even though the odds are no better then they were before they “improved” the interface.
Since the odds are always in favor of the house, I’ve always said that people who gamble are mathematically challenged. That’s why I don’t gamble, though I’m hardly a math whiz. But I go to Las Vegas about once a year to visit a friend and we’ll walk through the casinos and watch people sitting before noisy, flashing machines. Dropping in coins. Inserting debit cards. Most of them don’t look like they’re really enjoying themselves, but who am I to judge?
Should states outlaw machines that entice people to gamble more than they would otherwise? That seemed to be the undertone of the the 60 Minutes segment. Without thinking much about it, I might agree that such a rule could help to keep people with addictive personalities from losing their jobs, homes, possessions, and families.
The betting genie, of course, is not going back in the bottle. Every state except Hawaii and Utah allow some form of legal gambling and states now encourage gambling to help fill coffers in times of tight budgets. I don’t know if it is true that many (some say most) people who gamble can’t afford it, but 85% of Americans have gambled in their lifetimes and 60% gambled at least once in the last year. Out of that number, 1% are pathological gamblers and another 2 to 3% are problem gamblers.
As I watched the show, I thought about alcoholics and alcohol abusers (a much higher percentage) and no one is talking about bringing back prohibition. But I didn’t particularly question the tone of the interview.
Then when I read Barry’s post, I realized that the agenda of the segment avoided the question of a gambler’s responsibility. When Lesley talked with two women addicted to slot machines, she didn’t ask them to acknowledge the role they played in their current plight. After all, no one sat them down on a stool and told them to keep dropping in coins.
Barry makes a big point of individual responsibility and I agree that if we took away all activities that might possibly be harmful to someone somewhere, we would have little left.
Of course, if people did what I thought they should do, they wouldn’t gamble unless that had money to throw away, and they wouldn’t buy houses they couldn’t afford, and they wouldn’t take advantage of people who tried to buy houses they couldn’t afford, and they would speak to others with kindness, and most of all, they would treat everyone with compassion, even those with whom they strongly disagree.
After reading the blog, I realized I may agree with Barry more than I earlier thought. There are still some things he says that are critical of others in ways I wish he wouldn’t be. Nevertheless, I will read him again to see whether he says something else that can change my mind.
It would be nice, of course, if something I wrote in my blog caused him to change his mind. (I doubt he even reads this.) But before I can encourage someone to listen to me, if I want us to find common ground, I must listen to him or her with the same intention.
In the end, this business of reaching across the aisle, or across the fence, or across a strained relationship begins with a commitment to follow the Golden Rule — doing to others what we want them to do to us and refraining from doing to others what we don’t want them to do to us. In other words, listening to them as we would like them to listen to us.
That thought leaves me with two more things I’d like you to consider.
- Raise your hand if you think your senator or congressperson follows the Golden Rule.
- Raise your hand if you live by the Golden Rule.
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Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website: