Manners: Everyone gets a vote in a Democracy

I had to type democracy three times in the title. I kept typing “democrazy” and my mind went “yeeeesss” and “No!” at the same damn time.  But it’s true, democracy is the most difficult kind of government. This political cycle is already showing signs of being ugly and demeaning to both parties.

Here’s the rub I have with politics right now.  So much of the time, it doesn’t matter what political affiliations someone has, when I talk to them about the problems – we agree. Let’s take education.  Gallup Polls show that 70% of people think college education is important. That means there are almost 3 to 1 saying college is important. Then you start looking at why or who should pay for it… and suddenly everything falls apart.

In my opinion – in my experience – most of this is because the discussion’s goal is lost. It quickly devolves to “us v. them” no matter the side of the argument. And at some point, assumptions are made because of “party affiliation” which may or may not be true.

It isn’t (usually) a cut-and-dry answer. There are almost always two sides to a story: and the villain usually isn’t just evil and crazy. (Note: usually)

It is rare I run into a person who can’t agree on these things:

  • People are the greatest asset of the USA
  • Education is important for people to be able to improve their own circumstances
  • Hard work should be rewarded
  • Infrastructure to be reliable: roads, water, electricity, etc.
  • To feel safe in our homes, in public, and abroad
  • People should be able to be healthy

And a bunch more of issues that the end-goal is the same. These happen to be some of the ones I think are most important for us to address. Most people I know want the opportunity to better themselves. They think that opportunity is important for everyone. Most people I’ve spoken to agree that education is incredibly important to that.  It’s how that should be achieved that starts the fight.

It’s important to remember that what works today may not work tomorrow. It’s also important to keep in mind that sometimes there are two equally-valid routes to get to the same destination. As long as that destination is agreed upon, the method should be the discussion point and when things get heated, step back and say, “Ok, is this more important than reaching the destination?”

Think about things happening in the US today: could vouchers to allow people to “choose” or “select” their preferred school help make a competitive environment for students to get into the best public schools? Maybe. I think there are valid concerns that there are students who would be limited by transportation. (FYI – I am intrigued by this theory because it’s kind of how Japanese high schools work. Students have to apply to their HS of choice – take tests/compete to get in. Sometimes they even live alone/separate from family in order to attend the HS of their specialty. But – Japan is much smaller a country with a much more complex & accessible transportation system.  That wouldn’t necessarily work in rural Georgia/Texas/New York…. hell, it wouldn’t work in downtown Atlanta…)

Another piece to keep in mind is that just because someone brings up a possible problem (e.g. transportation limiting good students to bad schools because of their parents’ choices), that doesn’t mean we can’t still try an idea. We just need to be open to the fact that this solution might exacerbate an existing problem that will then need to also be addressed. That’s where it’s important to listen to the concerns of others. And possible solutions.

The hardest part in a democrazy is listening to someone express a fear which you think is “silly” – and good manners dictates that you at least acknowledge the person’s right to their fears. Even the silly ones. It’s important to keep in mind that people often have misconceptions based on hearsay (200 years ago people thought women with black cats were witches just because).