Sitting together isn’t enough
Jan. 31, 2011
by Ivan Raconteur

The State of the Union address can provide a fascinating look into American politics.

While the address itself may not result in any real change, the speech and the various responses that follow it may provide clues as to what we can expect in the weeks ahead.

I liked the symbolism of members of congress from both parties intermingling during the speech.

I hope the participants will take that spirit of cooperation seriously, because our future depends on it.

The ability to work together may be more important than any of the individual issues that the president talked about last night.

I am not as concerned about who was at the helm when the ship of state ran onto the rocks as I am about who is going to make a serious effort to help get us back on course.

We can sit and argue about whose fault it is that we find ourselves in this predicament, but while we do, we are still taking on water, and the ship is sinking.

What we need are people who are willing to put the causes behind them and work on the solutions.

There are some daunting challenges ahead of us.

Jobs, the economy, health care, the deficit, and many other issues will require our attention.

If we are going to be successful, we really are going to have to work together.

In the past, there have been times when it seemed like people from both of the major political parties were more concerned about blocking the efforts of the other party than they were in implementing real solutions for the country.

I imagine that people in countries with whom we are competing in the global marketplace just love it when we spend so much energy fighting amongst ourselves, because while we are standing still, they are moving ahead and becoming stronger.

One thing that surprised me after the State of the Union address was that, while there were some brief glimmers of potential cooperation between members of congress, some of the reactions from citizens that I read after the address seemed to go right back to the partisan bickering and name-calling that have characterized the recent past.

It appears that there are some people on both sides of the political spectrum who can’t even bring themselves to listen to the other side, and that is dangerous.

If a person is out of work, he probably doesn’t care which party comes up with the idea that ultimately results in him finding a new job.

If a person is struggling to feed her family, it is unlikely that she cares much where the food comes from that allows her to do so.

And, if a person is drowning, he probably won’t care if the life preserver that is thrown his way says Democrat or Republican on the label.

We, too, should focus more on solutions than labels.

Last night’s address included a fair amount of flag-waving and tributes to the American spirit, and that is appropriate. The president should be a cheerleader at times like this.

But we need to do more than that.

We need to face the problems head on and make some difficult decisions, and congress needs to do the same thing.

We have allowed our infrastructure to deteriorate, we have allowed ourselves to sink into a budget disaster, and we have lost some of our competitive advantage.

Instead of pointing fingers, we should be busy figuring out what we can do about it.

We are fortunate in this country to have many bright and creative people who have different ideas and philosophies.

We should embrace these differences and work together to come up with new solutions that will take all of us into the future, rather than using them as wedges to drive us apart and keep us mired in the past.

It seems that it would be a lot more efficient to agree where we can, and focus debate on those things where our philosophies differ, rather than turning every discussion into a competition.

We all share some of the responsibility for where we are today, and we will all need to take responsibility for building our future.

This is going to take more than just sitting next to those with whom we may disagree. It will also take listening to other viewpoints and treating others with respect. Although no single group will get everything it wants in the negotiations that lie ahead, perhaps we can find ways to get those things that all of us really need.

We have accomplished a lot in our country’s brief history, and maybe that is because, over all, we have been united, as our name suggests.

If we continue to go down the road toward divisiveness, it is going to be difficult to accomplish much of anything.

There are countries out there waiting for us to stumble and fall so they can push us aside and do things that may put us in a worse position than we are in now. Let’s not make it easy for them.

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