“I am done with politics! I am sick of the fighting between Republicans and Democrats.” – Anonymous friend.
When fieldwork is done, friends know my farm shop is a welcome place to drop in during the week for a chat. Amenities are not fancy; I have two collapsible chairs and a couple of buckets to sit on. There is a bag of peanuts and a beverage in the fridge. We may not solve the world’s problems, but we are becoming more “neighborly.”
The conversation that began with this declaration about politics gave way to the question of how we can resolve this impasse, this dysfunctional state of affairs. Granted, there are no easy solutions. If there were, Americans would be standing together, united, respectful and working together on things that truly matter.
Fellow Republicans tell me Democrats need to “suck it up, buttercup!” They lost the presidential election and must respect the man in the office.
“We stood quietly by these past eight years while your pick for president ruled like a dictator, issuing one executive order after another,” they say. After losing the election, typical “liberal” behavior is rioting in the streets, committing criminal acts and destroying property. “Now, it’s your turn to be quiet, submit to law and order and get a job!”
Friends on the Democratic side say, “Not so fast, you misogynistic, bigoted, racist homophobes! From day one, Republicans were obstructing legislation, blocking nominations, including the Supreme Court nominee, determined to make sure Obama was a one-term president! How did that work out?
"And speaking of being a dictator, is that the only way our current president knows how to get things done, by executive order? Has he ever read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights? And speaking of protests, three million women took vacation leave from good-paying jobs, paid their own way and spoke out against misogyny and bigotry, and no person was arrested. So there!”
It is a battle of wills, pitting one side against the other, each believing in the rightness of their cause, largely oblivious to their own flaws.
The conversation can only go south from there. There’s not much more to say, other than conclude we will not improve our lot by staying the course.
Is a compromise still unthinkable? Shall we ask for mediation, with Dr. Phil? Sorry, is he too liberal? Did someone mention Jerry Falwell Jr.? Is he too conservative?
If we are to resolve this, someone must be the bigger “man” and make that first step. Who will it be?
I am reminded of an old biblical story about Jacob. Having stolen the birthright from his brother, Esau, Jacob fled in fear that he would be killed. Having labored and prospered in another land, blessed with unbelievable wealth and progeny, he returns home, but on the journey learns of Esau’s burning desire to even the score.
Jacob devised a plan that brought about reconciliation and peace. He placed three groups of livestock, each spaced far enough apart, as a gift to Esau, to appease his anger. His servants and their children followed, as did his two wives and their children.
Jacob went ahead of his family and greeted his brother, bowing low, signifying humility and repentance. That day, peace was restored, and the brothers parted company as friends.
Perhaps the story is too bizarre and difficult to accept. Even so, like Jacob, neither party is innocent —Republican or Democrat. Hypocrisy abounds. It knows no limit.
Perhaps we need to take a small first step. Set up a couple of chairs, or buckets. Invite people to your home or shop, and begin the discussion. Include someone who shares a different philosophy than yours and get to know them.
Who knows if a bag of peanuts and a beverage will do wonders in the search for unity, peace and a meeting of the minds?
Penner is a Marion County farmer and a past president of the National Association of Wheat Growers. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.