8 ways to find common ground

The partisan picture in America can look pretty grim: Gridlock plagues Washington. Congressional approval ratings hover near record lows. Each election cycle seems to fuel the vitriol. Polarizing soundbytes get constant play in the 24/7 news cycle. Moderates are voted out. The culture wars rage on.

But these Monitor op-ed writers suggest there’s more common ground than meets the eye. Compromise and tolerance aren’t just possible in American politics and culture, they say. They’re vital. Here are eight powerful perspectives on the possibilities for meeting in the middle.

1. Conservatives vs. liberals: Before you indoctrinate your kids, read this

Joe Skipper/REUTERS
Dom Buccola holds his sign, which was autographed by Rick Santorum after he spoke at a Treasure Coast Tea Party campaign rally in Stuart, Florida, Jan. 24.

Writer Michael Laser worries: “Without intending to, I’ve indoctrinated my kids.” 

He continues:

Lately, I’ve found myself in the odd position of explaining and even justifying the conservative point of view on taxes, abortion, and regulation of private enterprise, just so my children will understand that people have reasons for their beliefs, even if we disagree.

Laser explains, “If you shut out the noise of talk radio and your own unshakable faith, you can find persuasive arguments on both sides of the divide.” Here’s one he came up with on taxes:

The liberal view

• We aren’t isolated individuals struggling for survival: We live together, in a society. And membership in a society that makes wealth possible comes with obligations. Those who benefit most from our freedoms must contribute their fair share to help support and protect our society. 

The conservative view

• Private property means that what belongs to you is yours; if the government confiscates it, that’s tyranny. Our most productive citizens – the top 10 percent of earners – already pay 68 percent of taxes collected. These rates should be cut, not raised.

Laser concludes:

But these opposing viewpoints also suggest a different idea: Contradictory statements can both be true. Yes, the differences are significant and worth negotiating over, but what we’re really talking about is a few percentage points in tax rates, not a choice between socialism and the abolition of all taxes.

Michael Laser is a novelist and the creator of News-Basics.com, which provides concise overviews of major news topics. More notes on liberal and conservative values can be found there.

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Dear Reader,

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“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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