Tina Bridenstine: Let’s bring back civility and the art of compromise

Tina Bridenstine

“I’m tired, boss … Mostly, I’m tired of people being ugly to each other.” – Stephen King, The Green Mile

I have been thinking of that quote a lot recently.

I don’t think people change so very much from year to year, but for some reason, the past few years have seemed dark. They’ve seemed dark, and 2020 has been off to a rip-roaring start of more of the same.

It feels like everyone is angry with everyone else. More than that, they’re angry and convinced the people they’re angry at are intentionally out to ruin the world.

Democrats, you know, are all socialist liberals – Hitler was a socialist, if you didn’t know – who are intentionally trying to destroy the country.

Republicans, by the way, are all racist bigots – Hitler was also a racist bigot – who put children in cages and who hate women.

Or so they’ll say about each other, anyway.

It doesn’t really end there.

State and local issues can get just as nasty. But then again, people fight in their own homes over such vitally important issues as which way the toilet paper goes on the roll or whether the shower curtain should be left open or closed.

I know we all have hills we’re willing to die on, but maybe it’s time we recognize we don’t need to die on every hill that comes along.

There are people out there who are only out to serve themselves or, even, who are sick and want to hurt others. Most people, though, are trying to do the right thing and are doing the best they can.

Two people who are truly well meaning and trying to make a difference for the better can completely disagree about how things should be done. One of these people doesn’t even necessarily have to be completely in the wrong. In fact, I find it more likely that they’re both capable of bringing a helpful perspective to the table than the idea that one is completely in the right and one completely in the wrong.

I think it’s well past time we bring civil discourse and compromise back into favor again.

Maybe it’s time we listen to each other. It’s easy to find a video or article by someone you agree with who over-simplifies and misrepresents the things your opponents believe. But what’s wrong with genuinely trying to understand where your opponents are coming from and seeing that they’re really only people just like you? Maybe you’ll still disagree with them, or maybe you’ll find you have more common ground than you thought, but I bet you’ll learn something either way.

We are so afraid of giving even an inch to “the other side.” It’s as if we’re all in one big game of king of the hill, and we’ve forgotten maybe there’s more to life than just hoarding the power we have. All that does is make one side lose sight of what it is they should be doing and cause resentment in the other. No one gets anywhere when that happens.

Maybe, instead of adopting a “my way or the highway” sort of attitude, it would be more helpful if we could have actual conversations with each other. Ask questions. Try to understand where people are coming from. Then, together, see if there’s something that can be done to address concerns on both sides. Be open to new ideas and making new plans together. Maybe the solution won’t be perfect, and not everyone will be perfectly happy. But I think it’s likely we can only benefit from allowing more voices at the table and working together rather than separately.

Maybe it’s time we open our hearts and use our ears as much as we like to use our mouths.