On April 5, spiritual writer and public speaker Deepak Chopra presented his new book Spiritual Solutions on MSNBC's Morning Joe. I didn't expect to hear much more than what many would consider self-evident platitudes, when somewhere between the interview’s 5:30 and 6-minute mark host Joe Scarborough opined that today's generation is richer yet more miserable than the generation of the Great Depression because today's generation is more self-absorbed. As that discussion continued Dr. Chopra roused me from my smug cynicism by saying, "Stop looking at the world right now, even our politicians, through a Democratic window or a Republican window. We’re human beings. Look through the human window. Ask yourself, you know, what do we need, what do we want, and then go for it. Why all this attacking each other?"
Chopra had uttered a sentiment that I had held privately for some time but dared not voice in conversation, polite or otherwise. It was the feeling that if only we could see beyond the labels we impose upon ourselves and others, whether they be labels of ethnicity, nationality, religion, political affiliation, or stereotypes too numerous to mention, we'd learn that we share many of the same fundamental goals and dreams. Our disagreements concern the means of attaining them.
Politicians all want peace, for example, yet differ on how to achieve it. Peace was the motivation for Ronald Reagan's military buildup, "peace through strength." Yet many saw Reagan as a warmonger, considering only the military growth and not its intent. Ultimately, the strategy helped end the Cold War, as the USSR's economic weaknesses sabotaged its efforts to keep pace. However, it's possible that different means may have accomplished the same end, or the USSR may have collapsed under its own weight. We'll never know. We can debate Reagan's methods forever, but there's one point on which we agree: The Cold War is over.
Think about the problems of the day such as the economy, jobs, immigration, national debt, decaying infrastructure, and the U.S. international profile. Both parties say they want a strong economy, full employment, a solvent government, secure borders, and international respect. From the 10,000-foot view, it's not the ends that divide us, it's the means. Liberals and conservatives both want their ideologies to triumph, and the resulting holy war leaves the problems of the day unsolved. Is it possible that one side's approach may work better for one problem while another side's approach might work better somewhere else? Or that a combination of methods might work better still? We'll never know until we drop the "my way or the highway" point of view that dominates today's politics and return to a spirit of compromise that values solutions over ideologies and works for the good of all.
It sounds so obvious, trite, and simplistic. But we sure have a hard time implementing the obvious. I wonder if Chopra could do any better. Maybe we should give him a chance.