Politics Should Require Listening to Others

I often tell the story about the night I became engaged nearly twenty five years ago. I lived in Boston at the time, and immediately after saying an emphatic “yes” to the late night proposal, I called my grandmother in Kansas. “Guess what?” I shouted in the phone. “I’m engaged!”

I waited for my grandmother to ask for details, to ask how he proposed, when we planned to marry, or what the ring looked like. Instead, her very first question was: “Is he Republican?”  I looked at my new fiance and asked him if he was Republican and he said, “I will be now.”

For my grandmother, being a Republican not only meant she believed in the Republican ideology, but she associated it with a particular way of life. She once told me to “represent the party well” and I knew she meant to respect others, be strong in our faith, listen to other viewpoints, stand up for what is right, but not by demeaning the beliefs of others.

I may have lost readers to this blog already, simply by mentioning that I am a registered Republican and that is precisely what perplexes me. I have had the opportunity in my 14 years of public service to meet countless people of various parties, and I can honestly say that it has been the non-political meetings in which the most has been achieved.

I’ve been in regional and statewide conferences with other mayors — none of whom advertise their political affiliation — and we’ve discussed what is right and appropriate for the future of our towns and for our citizens. We’ve had honest dialogue, open debates, and have come to healthy compromises on our collective debates.

In the past month, I’ve worked diligently to gather together regional leaders to discuss a visionary path for our area. Quite honestly, it has been a frustrating challenge. The business leaders on the list are open to ideas, but the political leaders have been reluctant to attend until they are positive the path “fits” with their political futures.  But how can we know the answer to a conversation unless it actually happens?

Nationally, I watch my own party candidates attack each other. I’ve seen the other party attack their own. I’ve watched as one party bullies the other into submission or witnessed the “toe the line” mentality that causes no movement to happen at all.

And when did the faith community begin to judge others on their political beliefs?  When did we all become so angry?

I think it’s time for us to start our own movement: “The Other Party Has Good Ideas, Too.” Who is willing to join me?

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