I spent the better part of last week in Cincinnati, Ohio working. I enjoyed my 4 day seminar, the sunshine, and the intrigue of being in a new downtown during lunchtime. On Thursday at lunch, I parked my car and began to walk the 4 blocks to the sandwich shop that I had grown to like over the first couple of days. The sun was out and there were lots of people on the sidewalks, taking care of errands, meeting friends or spouses for lunch, and taking in a beautiful midday.
As I walked along, the conversation behind me seemed to get louder. “I don’t know why those people think that they are entitled to financial aid or Pell grants for college; I worked 3 jobs to get through college. It’s ridiculous that those people think that the Government is supposed to take care of them. They want my tax dollars so that they can go out and buy a used Escalade and put $4,000.00 worth of wheels on it. I work 2 jobs now so that I can buy what I want.”
It became apparent to me quickly that this conversation, and in particular its volume, was at least somewhat being conducted for my benefit. I thought to myself, “thank God, I was just about at my turn off point to go to my little sandwich spot, where I could just sit outside and enjoy the lunchtime sunshine. As I made my turn, I casually glanced over my shoulder and saw the bald-headed guy in his shades that had been talking behind me. He and the woman turned and walked up some stairs.
It is so unfortunate and sad that in the terribly loud noise of the current political process, its advertising, editorials, and polls, our true commonality as human beings has been chewed up and spit out in the storm. I hate the polarizing language of “conservative” and “liberal.” Frankly, in my opinion, it is designed to do nothing more than keep the fight alive as the mutual goals of less taxes, safe neighborhoods, good schools, a strong economy, and recognition across the globe for being the world’s greatest country belong to the overwhelming majority of us. It is the perpetuation of this polarization that empowers the extremists, on both sides, to continue their economic exploitation of all of us, no matter which of the two hats you may have chosen to wear.
Ironically, after talking to each other, getting to know each, and discussing our differences with a healthy dose of respect, we would probably find that for the most part common ground and compromise are far more plausible than those extremists would have us believe. After all, what would they do for work if they could no longer keep us fighting?
I don’t even know anyone with an Escalade, new or used. I am however grateful for my student loans, without them I would neither be in a position to provide some of the opportunities that my family and I have enjoyed, nor for that matter pay the significant amount of taxes that I do. I do however know a single mother, who is currently studying to become a nurse and although she has a full-time job; she would not be able to attend college at night without the benefit of her Pell Grants.
I have dear friends, who proclaim themselves as polar opposites to me politically. I love them, pray for them, socialize with, and in some instances work alongside them. I care deeply for them and their families. What is most interesting and we laugh about it often is how much we have taught each other over the years, throughout lengthy discussions about our similarities and differences. I believe that I have taught and changed them and I know they have taught and changed me, by way of a simple process of respect, listening more than talking, and a mutual open-mindedness during the discussions. We often quip that we should go to Washington because things would change very quickly.
It’s actually kind of funny because all we really ever do is sit down and have a family meeting.
I wonder if that guy walking behind me would have had one with me over lunch.
Somehow, I doubt it and that’s sad.
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