Terry McLaughlin: Is finding common ground possible? | TheUnion.com

Terry McLaughlin: Is finding common ground possible?

Highlighting a few issues on which readers of varying political persuasions might find some possibility for connection and civil discussion was the intent of my Feb. 11 column. I would like to thank the readers who took the time and opportunity to weigh in on any of the specific issues raised whether they agreed in part, in whole, or not at all.

One reader’s area of disagreement was his opposition to any public funds being used to support charter schools, vouchers, or other efforts removed from public school education. He then wrote that “how a child is enriched birth to 5 determines a large part of that child’s academic success.”

I completely agree with that statement, as well as his continuing comment: “Let the parent parent. Children given a good start before kindergarten, especially when blessed with good parenting, will be able to develop the knowledge and habits which will propel them through.”

We may disagree on the methods used, but I am confident that we agree on the desired outcomes. (For a deeper dive into the subject of charter schools, see my column published Oct. 22, 2020).

Another reader wrote: “We both wish women would not get abortions. … Instead of making abortions illegal, we need to eliminate the reasons why some women choose to have abortions.”

My last column on Feb. 25 addressed exactly this issue, and I hope this reader could see that we definitely can find some common ground if we are willing to engage in discussion about it.

Another reader pointed out the difference between human reproductive cloning, wherein a human clone is created, and therapeutic cloning, wherein human cells are cloned for use in medicine and research. This reader was very much in favor of therapeutic cloning.

In reference to my statement that parents have the right to determine medical treatment for minors, a reader rightly objected to minors receiving any gender transitioning surgical or chemical procedures, even with parental approval because “even parents can get it wrong.” He proposed that only the patient could make that decision for him/herself as an adult, considering the serious consequences and permanence of any such procedures.

Several readers responded with strong disagreement to my belief that health-care workers and businesses should not be forced to act in a manner that conflicts with their deeply held convictions. Suggestions were made that “when it comes to public life, leave your strongly held religious convictions at the door,” and health-care professionals might be “better off simply finding a job that fits their religious beliefs.”

I am not sure that most dedicated health-care professionals would agree, and believe that finding common ground on this important issue may be difficult.

I am appreciative of all those readers who focused in on discussion of the issues raised or supported an effort to encourage civil discourse within our community.

One of my favorite responses was a simple statement: “Most people want what’s best for the country.” I hope that is true, and that we simply have different ideas about how to achieve that goal.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the responses posted either on-line or via email were overwhelmingly a rebuke of any attempt to find some points of civil discourse, raising multiple issues that were not part of the initial discussion in an often accusatory manner, name-calling, and reverting to political derision.

One reader said that the phrase “not the government” is “one of the biggest red flags tearing our country apart. So it doesn’t sound like a sincere invitation to engage in intelligent dialogue over shared values when I got hit with your ‘not the government’ red flag thrown in my face.”

Who knew that a statement such as “I believe that parents, not the government, are a child’s first and foremost educators” was a red flag creating division? I must not have gotten that memo.

It’s important to recognize that on-line comments to our newspaper represent a very small, but vocal, part of our community.

The less vocal and much larger community likely shares a similar outlook to one reader, whose sometimes amusing response to my search for common ground included the following: “I honestly believe there is very little in the realm of politics and social issues that the two sides can agree on anymore. I believe our common grounds have to be on a more basic level, such as: Litter is unsightly and … it would be nice if we could all just pick it up; walks on nice weather days are pleasant; a genuine smile exchanged will brighten anyone’s day; it’s always more productive and civil to be polite to each other rather than rude; it’s rude to pass gas in an elevator; colorful sunsets are beautiful; time spent with good friends enjoying good food is almost always enjoyable; everyone has freedom of choice on whether to believe in and follow God or to choose some other form of religion or none at all; death is a sad thing, but it is inevitable for all of us; everyone is unique and has different likes and dislikes; it would be nice if we could all get along.”

There will always be issues and policies on which we may passionately disagree, but kindness, courtesy and some willingness toward compromise can go a long way in keeping our community a welcoming and desirable one in which to live.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Grass Valley, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.

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