Can Coffee Save American Politics?
The other week I had the opportunity to sit down with a few of the "old guard" in Richfield politics. Some have even referred to a couple of them as "The Founders", and while that's not technically accurate, it's an honorific title they probably deserve. They've been active in Richfield politics for decades, and I truly enjoyed hearing stories of my adopted hometown's adolescence. In my middle age I've come to love studying history, and was eager to soak up just a fraction of what they'd learned over the years.
I had a blast, and the couple of hours flew by. Sipping coffee and eating cinnamon buns, we chatted away, and I sincerely hope I get the chance to do so again soon.
Afterward it left me longing for more than cinnabuns, though- it left me longing for the days when members of opposite parties could actually socialize together. You see, this group and I, we are from different political parties (*GASP*). This was a fact that I wanted to get onto the table right away, so that there was no mistaking my intentions to just sit and chat were sincere, and other than some light and good-natured ribbing, went largely undiscussed.
Throughout the conversation I was constantly reminded how, in the not too distant past, the political discourse was more civil. Don't get me wrong, American politics have always been volatile, with our nation born in riots and even fistfights on the floors of our fledgling country's government houses. There's always been conflict and diametrically opposed ideals, but...
Legislators knew each others' children. They would have lunch together in the cafeteria. Lobbyists would invite people from both parties to the same event. They would go out for a drink after sessions, and maybe even have dinner together. Above all, however, the best politicians have always known how to work past their differences to get things done. Compromise has become a dirty work on the extremes of both parties, but without compromise our system of government simply doesn't work. The "all or nothing" mentality has sadly become a pervasive part of our political mindset.
I can't help but feel that if we just went out for coffee a little bit more with each other, we'd start to see each other as people again, rather than "the other", or worse, "the enemy". It's hard to hate when you're eating a cinnamon bun...