Reaching for the other side of the aisle | Rich Elfers' Politics in Focus

Have you had enough of slanted political views, slander and stubborn, self-righteous partisanship? I have. I’m glad elections are done for at least a year. It seems what Americans are hungry for is cooperation and compromise between the political parties in the nation’s Congress and the state and local governments for the good of the nation. What most of us really would like to see is a sense of balance and moderation.

King Solomon, king of ancient Israel in about 900 B.C., advised his readers in the book of Ecclesiastes to “avoid extremes.” Socrates, Confucius and Buddha all came to that conclusion at about the same time in history in the 5th century B.C. This

occurred even though Socrates lived in Greece, Buddha in India and Confucius in China. All three great thinkers came to the conclusion that there needed to be balance in human affairs.

Socrates called it the Golden Mean, Buddha called it the Middle Way and Confucius’ thoughts became known as Yin and Yang. They all have a common thread: humans should seek balance and moderation in all aspects of their lives. This is not an easy concept for us humans to practice because by nature we tend to go to extremes.

The examples of this in history are ample. I will give two examples from our modern period: Post World War I Germany suffered runaway inflation where money became so inflated that it was cheaper to burn bundles of Deutschmarks than it was to use it to buy coal. Just a few years later the Great Depression hit not only Germany, but the whole world. Money was extremely hard to find; in the 1930s one could buy a complete dinner for 50 cents in America.

Another example of the swinging of the pendulum of human nature was when U.S. citizens were strongly isolationist after the horror of World War I in the 1920s and 1930s in spite of German, Italian and Japanese conquests. That attitude abruptly changed to anger and interventionism after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

Wisdom comes from seeking balance in all areas of our lives, both public and private. To do that requires that we face the reality that extremism on either side of the spectrum does not bring us safety and freedom from fear; it only brings us more grief.

The election is over and the time has arrived where members of Congress must sit down with their opponents for the good of the nation. We cannot continue to be so polarized and let the major problems of immigration, climate change, unemployment, energy and the national deficit be ignored any longer.

It’s time to let go of our fears. It’s time for people on both sides of the political spectrum to start listening to perspectives of the other side. We all need to realize those who disagree with our views do so out of sincerity. Our goals should be to hear that sincerity, and begin to listen for areas of agreement. Focusing on our differences will not give us the nation or society either side really wants.

The ancient sages of the past knew the wisdom of seeking balance. It’s time America returned to its roots found in the Constitution. Checks and balances, two houses of Congress, are examples of an attempt to balance opposing views. It’s time for the national and the state elected officials to give their constituents what they really want: balance and moderation.

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