I grew up during a time, when the difference between conservatives and liberals was pretty blurred. I didn’t know what a Republican or Democrat was until I was well into adulthood. However, my family had lenghtly, and insightful discussions at the dinner table every week regarding issues we felt were important.
These discussions taught us to think for ourselves, and to voice our opinions in a way that gave credibility to our view of the world. It was an exercise in diplomacy and my parents saw to it these discussions were conducted with respect and good manners. Because of this, we as a family, were able to delve deeper and deeper into why our beliefs about a certain topic which were a cause for good, sound judgment.
What made these discussions worthwhile was not that we all agreed on a specific topic, but that usually each of us had a differing opinion. We learned to discuss our differences regarding our opinions. We bounced our ideas off one another in order to present our belief in a sound and constructive manner. We were not allowed to issue harsh judgments regarding differing opinions, or a least not against the individual themself. These discussions would go on to help me establish my first real career in life. They would prove valuable to my job working for the Legislature in future years.
Later in life, I began my career working for attorneys and title companies, and when I wanted to branch out into mortgage banking, I quit my current job and worked temporary jobs, waiting for the right position to come along. While I was waiting, my head hunter informed me there was a short term, 3 month job working on a Senate campaign. She thought it would be good to earn a little money while I was looking. I took it.
In 3 months the candidate was elected to office and my entire professional life changed. All of the sudden I was being offered a position working for the Texas Senate. To say I was excited was a complete understatement. I felt like I had found my path.
My biggest regret was I never paid much attention in school as to how a bill became a law. I didn’t understand committee assignments and subcommittees, floor resolutions, and how both houses had to concur before a bill was sent to the Governor for signature and then became law.
Working for a freshman Senator I got to pass my ignorance around a bit, but there was absolutely no shortage of those willing to help. Republican or Democrat, everyone jumped at the opportunity to share their knowledge. I came to realize afterwards, this was how the legislative system works. There are rules set in place so that all sides have the opportunity to present their case. Conservatives, Moderates and Liberals all got equal chances to plead their cause.
I remember a few years later when I was working for a member of the Texas House we got a letter from a 5th grade student who had visited the Capitol while the Legislature was in session. On the floor of the Texas House and Senate, each member is given their own desk with writing surface, and voting machine. This young boy wanted to know why all the members were not seated at their desks paying close attention to the discussion on the floor. All the members were up, walking around, visiting with each other and it appeared no one was paying attention. I had the difficult job of answering this question.
What I told him was members were busy visiting with fellow members discussing their opinions and expressing whether or not they supported the measure being presented. When proposed legislation is being discussed, it is the time for members to each share whether they support said proposal or not. In addition, each member will have a list of ideas they want to propose as laws. A bill doesn’t become law because one person thought it was a good idea, it takes either a simple majority or a 2/3rd’s vote to pass out of the House or Senate. So the key ingredient is compromise.
I realized that day that compromise, especially in tough situations regarding opposing views was the key to getting things done and doing it in a way so that everyone feels like they have “won”. You don’t win a fight to win, you do it so that all sides of an issues can be heard and an agreement can be reach so that all parties have a chance to participate in the final outcome.
There was a proposal in the 1980’s that dealt with legalizing commercial fishing of Redfish in the State of Texas. Those who were sport fisherman were against it. Those who were commercial fisherman whose livelihood depended on commercial fishing were in favor of it. As I recall, both sides had to compromise because not one train of thought was right or wrong. Both were right and both were wrong, so a compromise was crucial or one side would lose completely.
I truly believe there’s never just one way to look at anything. There are always two sides to the story. However, when opposing views become polar opposites and there is no room for discussion, the needs of the greater good are lost. No one wins when opposing sides hold their ground and refuse to compromise. Our future leaders need to learn how to deal constructivvely with difficult issues in order to find answers to real world problems. And yes, they all need to give and take. Laws are usually never just black and white. Life is gray, and there are issues affecting all of us that need changing in order to benefit our state and our country.
Let’s get back to talking about politics and world views at the dinner table, where we all feel safe and loved even if we disagree! God knows, future generations need the practice. We have got to learn somewhere how to facilitate solutions so mankind can move forward. The survival of our democracy depends on it!
Who knows, maybe your child or grandchild, sitting at the dinner table discussing politics will become a State Senator, Congressman or even President of the United States one day.
Let’s start treating each other as Statesmen and see what a difference, “We the People” can make!