The Art of the Compromise

One of the things I dislike most about our current state of politics is how much it’s taken on the trappings of sports. I love me some sports, but we’re not playing a game with the country. This isn’t a situation where the Democrats face off against the Republicans to see who wins it all. It’s also not reality television. The ratings don’t matter, and arbitrary metrics are pretty much worthless.

We’re all in the same country. We all have to live with the choices we make as a nation. But these days, politics feels like it’s becoming more and more a situation where you need to not just defeat “the other side.” You can’t be happy until you’ve crushed your enemies, seen them driven before you, and heard the lamentations of their women.

Right now, there are two polemically opposed sides to the debate on the pandemic and economic catastrophe we’re going through. On the one side, there are people who are convinced we all need to stay inside and not come out again until 2025, and then only if we can be encased in a large plastic bubble at all times. On the other side, we’re not doing our patriotic duty until we go outside right this instant and start licking every object in sight (to show dominance over the virus), ideally while eating a Big Mac and spending money on a complete set of Make America Great Again his and hers pajamas and maybe shooting some guns into the air at the same time.

Obviously I’m taking those two sides to the extreme, but the point is clear. All of us fall somewhere between those two opinions. But the thing about living in a country with other people is that both sides matter. Even if you wished they didn’t. Even if you dreamed of a day when that other side just magically disappeared from the face of the earth, they’re still here, and their opinion still matters. They still vote. They’re still represented in Congress by people who agree with them.

So the only way we’re going to get anything useful done is through compromise. And it would help a lot if people stopped treating compromise like a dirty word. As if when you compromise on something, you’ve betrayed your base, or sold your soul. Of course, it doesn’t help that there are media outlets on both sides of the aisle ready to holler and shout about what a catastrophe the compromise is, and how it betrayed everything that was decent about this country. But if the compromise is any good, both sides of the news media will be upset about it these days.

I get that it’s easier to use a “they’re evil” brush to paint the people you don’t agree with. They’re either a bunch of corporate suits trying to drain the last drop of money from our working class, or a bunch of communist anarchists bent on robbing the good citizens of our nation. And yes, I believe there are people acting in bad faith on both sides of the aisle, but no, I don’t believe people walking around with Nazi flags are “generally good people.” The best I could say about such individuals is that they’re wildly misguided and dreadfully ill-informed.

I watch these Senate hearings, and I’m disappointed. Let down that even in this crisis, we’re still bickering over asinine things like “did we do a good job with testing?” No. I believe we can categorically state that we did a pretty awful job with testing, because if we’d done a half-decent job, we wouldn’t be where we are now. When you’ve already flunked the course for the year, why waste time debating whether or not you studied well for the midterm? Pick yourself up and move on.

I think we need to start opening up the country at a reasoned, measured pace. Faster than some would like, and slower than others would like. I think if people would just wear their masks and give each other some space, there’s a lot we could start doing. This insistence on no masks and no distancing and “this pandemic is fake” is frustrating to say the least, but it’s more frustrating because somehow wearing a mask has become a political statement. In our rush to prove how right one side is over the other, we’re throwing common sense out the window.

And I suppose that’s all I have to say about that.


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