As a Winston-Salem lawyer I think it’s common to have a pretty strong interest in politics, so it’s no surprise that I loved the show West Wing. One of my favorite parts was the way Martin Sheen, who played President Bartlett, would move from monumental task to monumental task with a simple, “what’s next.” As the election season winds down I can’t help but wonder, “what’s next,” for our country and for our community.
Right now there is so much division, so much tension, so much hateful rhetoric spewing in all directions. I worry about what it will take to remember we are all neighbors here and that we are all still going to share the same communities no matter who gets elected. I fear we have forgotten how to talk to each other. I fear that we have forgotten how to care about each other and look beyond our own circle to see the bigger picture. I want to know how to get that back. What does it take? What’s next?
It used to be that compromise was a regular part of the political landscape, but now it seems that everybody is taking a scorched earth, all or nothing approach, and that doesn’t seem to be any way to govern a country as expansive and diverse as this one. It’s worth noting that there is really no such thing as a universal experience in this country. Cultures vary tremendously from sea to shining see.
And I think that when we live, breathe, and vote with only our self-interest at heart, we miss out on the fact that our individual experience is not a universal experience.
So it seems to me that what’s next is to really dig deep and figure out why we think like we do. What is it about our lived experience that makes us favor certain policies or vote certain ways? Not repeating a talking point we heard on the news, not adopting what our parents taught us about politics, but a true deep dive into our own value system and resulting opinions. Then it’s time to figure out which policies are we really passionate about and which policies can we compromise on? Because it seems to me that there is no way to make 320 million people happy, so we’d better figure out how to compromise.
In the process of figuring out what we really think, it would probably help to talk to people who have lived experiences that look vastly different than our own. Not just keyboard warrior-ing, but really talking. Because at the end of the day, there are 320 million people here, and I really just want to live in a country that governs in a way to make as many of those people as happy as possible to live here. I don’t want half of the population completely and utterly miserable depending on which person gets elected.
I feel like we have the knowledge, the wealth, the tools, and the fortitude to do better than a 50% misery rate. We just need to WANT to get there, so, “what’s next?”
Attorney Lea Keller