What is the problem? That is the question? My question: Why is America so divisive? The answer, perhaps, is that as individuals we allow other entities (political parties and media sensationalists, for example) to frame complicated issues in too narrow a context. Like having to answer “Yes or no — are you the only person in the room?” To even answer is to acknowledge the question’s validity.
Is the question,”Clinton or Trump?” or “Do we want a leader who reflects our values as individuals and as a nation?” We caved to ill-defined party lines and failed to vote “None of the above.”
Is the question, “Do we need to abolish Planned Parenthood?” or “Should we discuss the 5 percent of Planned Parenthood’s mission that involves abortion?” Neither side advocates abortions per se. Acknowledging that fewer abortions is good is to recognize the common ground Planned Parenthood shares with pro-life advocates. Start the discussion there.
Is the border security issue solved with “a big beautiful wall” or should we ask, “What reasonable, effective strategies can we implement to improve border security?” Walling off a problem is, in the long run, strategically ineffective.
The Affordable Care Act debate became skewed with the word “affordable.” What aspect of health care is affordable when the average cost of a major surgery exceeds a lifetime of premiums? In that narrow context, is not the more accurate question, “How much health care does a person get before being cut off?”
Public lands. Is the question, “How much tax money does that resource generate?” or “What strategies can we implement to maintain public access while addressing the economic concerns of the affected communities?”
Taxes. Is the question simply, “Should we raise them or lower them?” or “What benefit does the tax provide?” Our infrastructure is crumbling and getting more expensive to fix. To frame taxation as a government evil is fine political spin but that won’t mend our bridges.
Regulations. Is the question, “Do we want more regulations strangling our economic growth?” or “Is the regulation serving its purpose?” No one is advocating for needless regulations for the sake of regulation. At some point in the past people saw a need for that regulation. To simply vilify regulations is to ignore the precedent.
Religious freedom and rights. Is the question, “Can a bakery owner refuse to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple on religious grounds?” or “Did said bakery owner voluntarily sign a state business license agreeing to nondiscriminatory sales?” I would say the business owner should consider that conflict for his/herself before going into business in said state. Sometimes freedom of choice is just that.
We all have choices. We can determine our own answers. First, though, we have to ask ourselves the hard and relevant questions. What do I value? What does my community value? Allowing such important questions to be framed by the myopia of party politics, media aggrandizement, and religious intolerance only lowers the bar of our individual and collective consciousness.
Cliff Cromwell is sole proprietor of Bird Dog Productions, a graphic design company in Boise since 1994.