When folks talk about what’s broken in American politics today, they often use words like “divided” or “polarized.” Perhaps what they really mean is not that people hold different philosophies but that they refuse to be budged even slightly from them. That intractability makes compromise almost impossible.
But we have just the thing to melt the heart of even the hardest hard-liner: the Christmas spirit.
Since it’s already the season, Congress and the president could tap the Christmas spirit to reach a compromise on the fiscal cliff, for example. Democrats could give Republicans more of the spending cuts they’re after, and in exchange, Republicans could lower the income threshold for new taxes a bit. Then both sides get what they really both wanted all along, which was a way to avert another recession.
That’s the essence of the Christmas spirit: doing a kindness for others in the interest of the common good.
Tooele City and Tooele County could stretch the Christmas spirit into the new year and use it to come to some agreement on the expansion of the county’s community resource center. First off, commissioners need to approach city officials respectfully to initiate a discussion on the issue — something that hasn’t happened yet. Then city officials need to soften their hearts and negotiate in good faith, dropping the rigid position that no downtown building should move from the private sector into public hands. The public, too, has a role to play. Those who say government has no business caring for the welfare of the poor should remember than American citizenship has always meant collective obligation as well as the freedom to engage in personal pursuits.
Finally, perhaps nowhere is the spirit of Christmas more badly needed now than in our current debate over guns in the wake of the Newtown massacre. The approach toward Christmas has, unfortunately, not softened the shrill voices calling for dismantling the freedoms of the Second Amendment or demanding that all teachers carry assault rifles into the classroom. Most of us don’t see the issue in these extremes. We think compromise is called for. Above all, we want to find some way to ensure Newtown never happens again.
The Christmas spirit is not something we appeal to in others. It is, rather, something we call up in ourselves, at least once a year. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us could draw upon that reserve of compassion, compromise and goodwill just a little bit more often?