Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Things I am willing to negotiate

In the spirit of the New Year, I've decided to be more of a "reach-out-to-the-other-side" kind of guy. Granted, that may not mean much since I don't actually know what the "spirit of the New Year" is, but I read a lot of Lovecraft, so I think I've got the gist of it.

Make resolutions or else!

Specifically, I've decided to put down a list of political positions I hold, but which I am willing to negotiate on. After all, one of the cornerstones of the American political system is compromise (or so I tell my class every semester, and I don't think I'm lying about that). "Compromise," however, is one of those things that is easy to say in theory but hard to nail down in practice, especially in an era of radical rhetoric and campaigns based on sticking to one's guns in the face of opposition. When every Congressional and Presidential candidate runs on a campaign platform of "cleaning up Washington in the name of our beloved American ideals", the fact that no one ultimately gets what they want can get lost in the verbal shuffle and we are increasingly less willing to give up what we want for ourselves.

Even more, while there are some issues on which it really is worthwhile to stick to our guns no matter what, even if/when we've lost the argument and been shunted into a minority position, there are any number of issues that are not worth this level of devotion. The problem is, because of the nature of both the political campaign and the way American media works (among other causes), it's very easy to confuse the issues which deserve our lasting support with those which are perhaps not worth the time and effort we put into them. We've lost the ability to tell the truly important things from those that are only of lesser concern.

To that end, I've listed below four political positions I hold which I am willing to barter in exchange for something else. That is, these are things I believe, but which I am willing to compromise on in exchange for someone else's doing the same thing. There are probably more than four, but these are what came up off the top of my head (if additional ones occur to me I'll add them in the comments).

[Note: I'm leaving aside the question of whether these are local, state, or national issues for the purposes of this post. And I'm also leaving aside the question of degrees of compromise, as well as most other points of nuance, mostly because I don't want this to turn into a 20,000 word manifesto.]

So, the compromise issues are:
1) Legalized marijuana.
2) The death penalty.
3) Socialized Healthcare. [Note: this is a trickier one, since Obamacare as it exists now is a sprawling and complicated affair that raises a whole host of other issues, and while I am opposed to parts of it--you know which ones--I'm not unwilling to talk about the idea of socialized healthcare in general. But I'd want something really, really big in exchange.]
4) "Under God" in the pledge.
Again, this is not a complete list.

What does this mean practically? Well, I think an exercise like this has two kinds of value. First, it can be useful to start a conversation from a position of negotiation rather than bluster. When my opening stance is "I'll surrender this point if you give me something else," we can have a political dialogue in a way that is simply impossible if my opening stance is "I will die on this--and every other hill--no matter what."

More than that, however, it's always a useful exercise to ask ourselves "how will I not be getting my way?" Self-restraint is not a common virtue of American citizens, and voluntary self-restraint is functionally unheard of. Regularly asking ourselves what we can set aside in the political realm over the next year can only help to generate humility, and we certainly could use a good dose of that!

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