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This essay’s subject sounds totally outlandish in 2014, doesn’t it? Well, if we are talking about the Federal Government, unfortunately it pretty much is. The only agreement between our two political parties is to agree that the national government is totally dysfunctional and absolutely nothing will be accomplished. Their basic disagreement centers on each pointing his (or her) finger at the other, saying that it’s totally their fault. If only they would listen to ME and do what MY PARTY wants, then this gridlock would disappear and we could move on to the perfect society. But they won’t listen to ME, so darned if I’ll give THEM the satisfaction of working with such obnoxious people.
When I was younger and attending Clemson, I thought that way, too. If only people would listen to ME, they could fix all those problems! But over time I have learned better. Whether you are a City Councilman or a Senator, or indeed the President or just another taxpayer, you haven’t earned the right to complain until you’ve worked on the problem yourself. You play the cards you are dealt, and don’t spend a lot of time complaining that the cards aren’t the ones you wanted. You work with the people around you, and don’t spend a lot of time complaining that they aren’t the people you wanted. You don’t sit, complain, and recommend to other people what they ought to do, if it’s something you’ve never even tried to do yourself.
Other than being very careful to vote for people who know how to listen and how to compromise, we in Edgefield County have little opportunity to set a good example for those we send to Columbia, much less to Washington. Or so I thought. Then I thought some more. Aren’t you the person, I asked myself, who says you need to work on something yourself, you and your friends, before complaining that somebody else isn’t fixing it? How can we in Edgefield County set the example of Democrats and Republicans actually listening to one another, talking through issues together, and reaching a respectful understanding at the local level, as a basis for solving real problems, state government problems if not federal?
So I contacted the chair of our Democratic Party, and I contacted our Republican State Senator, and proposed that the next Democratic Party guest speaker be that Republican. And to my delight they both agreed, enthusiastically! The details are still being worked (and should be in next week’s Edgefield Advertiser), but Shane Massey will be the guest speaker at a meeting sponsored by the Edgefield Democratic Party on Saturday morning, August 9th. Everybody is invited – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Orneries (that’s everybody else). The purpose is dialogue – here’s what the state Senate did last term, what would you like to see us do next term? And I plan to ask the local Republican Party to respond in kind, with a Democratic officeholder as their guest speaker next time around.
Historically, we in Edgefield County have been leaders. Setting the example of mutual respect, of listening to one another and reasoning together even if we don’t all see things precisely the same way, is a good start. Office seekers who really want our vote, are you listening?
Republicans and Democrats working together – a skill everybody else seems to have forgotten. But here in Edgefield County, we haven’t forgotten. Read the Advertiser next week for the details. Rather than just complaining about our state problems, plan to attend on Saturday morning August 9th and become part of the solution.