Jim Goetsch: Seeking common ground
December 21, 2017
Several recent letters and Other Voices opinion columns in The Union start out seeking "common ground" with the stated intention to help us all get along. However, many of these articles end up excoriating Trump, Republicans, and conservatives in general.
Even our editor called for calm, but called Trump a "bully" without mentioning his being bullied by many entertainers, nearly all Democrats, and most of the media during the entire past year.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a conservative, a Republican, and an appreciator of Trump's results so far, without particularly liking the man. As an efficiency expert/consultant during most of my career, I found that very few people desire to change either their habits or their thinking.
Therefore, I don't expect this column will change anyone's thinking process, but maybe it will challenge some of our assumptions that underlie the belief that we just need to find "common ground." Let me start with this quotation from our Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
I imagine there were a lot of other "rights" that some of our founders would have preferred to include, but these three seem to have risen above the others to be included in this famous document. I imagine most of us would agree that these three "rights" are self-evident "truths." What I notice is that each of us has a different interpretation of these "rights."
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Take the "unalienable Right to Life" for instance. Some oppose war and the death penalty as being contrary to this "self-evident truth." Many of these same individuals support the aborting of fetuses and euthanasia, which deny the right to life. How do we reconcile these different stances regarding our understanding of this "right to life?"
The solution is not just agreeing on common aims and goals, it's also necessary to agree on common moral values that should remain unchangeable. However, the rise of "situation ethics" — ethics that can change depending on the situation — has penetrated our culture to the point that we no longer have a common agreement as to what is right or wrong.
Because there are evil men in the world, we end up with wars between countries and murders of fellow men/women. Although few of us want these results, we try to come to grips with how to stop them. Some of us believe that there would be no war or murder, if we learned to love one another, eliminated weapons and arms, and confined ourselves to peace conferences and rallies demanding "no more war" and "ban all guns." My experience over 70-plus years shows that evil people will only be stopped by a strong defense posture. My choice is to avoid war by building up a strong military defense, and avoid others taking my life by employing my own methods of deterrence.
To many of us it seems obvious that the aborting of fetuses is refusing the right of life to innocent human beings. Apparently having unwanted babies is such an inconvenience to many, that excuses have been developed to permit this denial of the "unalienable Right to Life" to our unborn children.
Any moral qualms about this can be dismissed by contending that a fetus is not a person until it can exist on its own. Why doesn't that allow women to do away with unwanted toddlers who cannot exist on their own without a mother?
We may be able to agree on the need to seek common ground, but what do we mean by common ground? Don't we also need a common definition of right and wrong regarding that "common ground?"
Add the fact that our political parties have chosen to take different approaches to the concept of "Right to Life." Democrats typically cut back on our national defense when in power and support abortion. Republicans typically build up our defense posture, and most of us cannot accept abortion as a moral action in most cases.
If we define ourselves by what our political parties stand for, and have no common agreement as to what is right and wrong, it will be impossible to find "common ground" to bring us together. We and our political parties are also divided on the meanings of "Liberty" and the "pursuit of Happiness," but that is material for another article.
Jim Goetsch lives in Lake of the Pines.
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