After the meeting I went outside our meeting venue at the Kentucky Coffeetree Café in Frankfort, Kentucky, the capital city of the state. I spoke with some folk who were at the meeting and were continuing discussions about politics, life, whatever. As we/they were discussing the needs of the USA, a nearby person said loudly something like, “Well we need to get rid of all this liberal control and go back to what the constitution says.”
One of my friends prodded him about what part of the constitution; and they ended up in a short but interesting and significant manhood competition about whether the more liberal one had really served in the military. They discussed the size of a particular tank and how much it weighed, etc., for my friend to prove he had really served. I actually thought afterward it was kind of funny that it was so important to the guy who didn't like liberal politics.
Somewhere during the talking, in my already aggravated state, I started challenging some of what he was saying; and we ended up yelling at one another loud enough to draw the attention of a lot of people on the block who were sitting talking, eating, drinking coffee, walking their dogs, etc. Two of my friends tried to calm me down; and, before things really calmed down, at least one of them left to go home. One had left earlier; and one more went to another table to sit, probably to avoid the inevitable blood shed that might come my/our way.
There was a discussion of American history with very different ideas about what that history entailed. (For example, Clinton didn't balance the budget. George H. W. Bush's policies actually did the balancing.)
I kept prodding the guy who didn't like liberals whose name was Jim, about what he saw being needed in the USA; and it was immediately obvious that even though we might not agree on HOW to fix our problems, we certainly agreed on what those problems were. The loudness of our respective voices reduced; and the discussion became both better in nature and more productive. It seemed we agreed on a fair amount of things:
- We both believed that the Supreme Court “Citizens United” decision was an affront to the intentions of the framers of the Constitution.
- We both believed that we needed some form of social protection net. He especially seemed to understand the need for the Food Stamps program.
- We both believe that our current two-party system is failing the country. He thinks the Republicans are more likely to have a solution. I believe the Democrats are trying the right approach.
- We both believe congress is taking too much time on things that really don't matter that much to the American people. One example of that was the time taken to vote on returning incandescent bulbs to our store shelves, led by the party that first sought to eliminate them just a few years ago.
- We both believe our governmental systems themselves need to be improved. He says that government needs to be reduced. I argued that the size isn't the problem but that what we needed was effective government of the size necessary to make it effective.
- We both agreed that taxes were too low on the very wealthy and too high on some lower paid folk.
- We both agreed that the invasion of Iraq had disrupted the mission in Afghanistan and causing more problems for the USA.
- We agreed that too many people don't have a concern for the USA and want it to be successful, though we might not have agreed how that would be seen. We never discussed that question of how, though.
- He believes the Healthcare Improvement Act (what negative folk call Obamacare) is bad for America; but we both believe our health care system needs to be improved. He believes the health care mandate is unconstitutional. I believe we need at least needed a “public option,” which to my surprise he didn't reject.
- We shared our own European ancestry and how our families had arrived in the USA, though we never discussed immigration itself.
We discussed the changes in the American neighborhood and agreed we could both place part of the division of the USA today on the lack of the neighborhood structure and a place (restaurant, library, bar,, post office or other) that was a center where folk could share news or gossip or concerns. We see a need for a return to locally-owned and run businesses. It was obvious he was already helping to support that kind of business in our small city at the heart of the Kentucky Bluegrass area.
And yet, as far apart as we likely were in many subjects, when we actually sat down to talk about that on which we agreed (and which I admit to having deliberately done), it seemed we two middle/lower class/poor, I'm not sure which, folk had much more in common than differences.
It's a shame we can't take the time as a nation to sit down like that. My new friend Jim thinks President Obama needs to have a kitchen table with a pot of coffee available on the side to invite national and even international leaders to come sit together and talk out problems. There are ways I saw that as a little too simplistic (that a lot of world leaders would never drink coffee is one of them); but, as a symbol, it seemed very right.
Now for our national and international leaders to get their shouting out of the way and start talking about that on which they do agree and start working on how to make it better for the people who are most in need without taking anyone's actual rights away.