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Our discourse could use more latitude, less attitude

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By Larry Simoneaux
I don't spend much time writing about politics anymore.
Maybe it's because I'm getting older and don't want the aggravation. Maybe it's because I'm just tired of listening to promises (from both sides) that I know will last only nanoseconds beyond election day. For sure, it's become too shrill, spiteful and dispiriting.
One side wants "this" and, immediately, the other side sets the aiming stakes for their bile howitzers and opens fire. The other side then demands "that" and the counter-battery begins.
No compromise. Everyone to the trenches and it's the political version of the First World War, complete with a middle "no man's land" where no one dares venture lest they get chewed up by both sides.
Current example: Health care.
Do we need a program that covers the needs of a civilized, computerized, industrialized, modernized nation? As a well known political figure would say: "You betcha!"
The number of medically uninsured citizens amongst us is usually reported as being somewhere north of 40 million people. Added to that number are those who have some form of insurance but, even so, would likely face bankruptcy were they to experience a medical catastrophe either not or only partially covered by whatever plan they have.
Then there are the current medical entitlement programs that are running up a tab for future taxpayers that's truly frightening.
So, in the face of this (and more), are our elected representatives behaving in a cogent, thoughtful, and sober manner?
And that's just one problem we face.
Current political thinking seems to be to get all of us lined up on one side of an issue or the other, raise our collective blood pressure to the boiling point and, then, point us at the "enemy" while asking us to donate copious quantities of money in order to "defeat" the other side which, plainly, wants to lead us all to perdition.
Yep. Makes perfect sense. That's the game I want to play.
So, I've mostly backed away from writing about politics and started doing something else that's better for my mental well being (such as it is). Every few weeks, I'm having coffee with two other men.
I've known each of them in a roundabout way for more than 10 years. Letters to the editor, blogs, columns in other newspapers, phone calls, etc.. Each of them is darned good with words and ideas. Politically, one of them would probably be classified as a left-of-center moderate, the other a certified liberal. Yours truly is the voice from the right.
The thing is, we're not that different. We've all been married for decades -- with nary a divorce in the mix. We all have kids. Two of us served in Vietnam and one (not me, I learned to duck) got a Purple Heart for his troubles. We love baseball. We think the government is overreaching in some areas while not doing enough in others. None of us will ever appear on that "To Catch a Predator" program. We want the best for our kids. Two of us are religious. One isn't. Morals-wise, though, I think we'd all pass any muster you'd care to offer.
Still, we come at things from differing perspectives and, in today's world, we should be screaming -- red-faced, vein-popping, spittle forming at the corners of our mouths -- at each other.
Doesn't happen. Instead, we just sit down for an hour or two and talk. What we've found over the course of several get-togethers is that it's still possible for individuals with differing views to be civil and (horrors!) even like each other.
We're still in the opening stages of whatever this "thing" is, and are still filling each other in on who we are. The movies we like. Where we're from. Why we followed the careers we chose and the like. We've only touched lightly on politics and have done so cautiously.
I think this is called "building trust." Giving each other a little latitude. Not showing any attitude. (Apologies to Jimmy Buffett.) Allowing things to develop to where, eventually, a tough topic could be handled with passion but without hard feelings.
I'm liking it and hoping it continues. Differing ideas, intelligently offered, thoughtfully considered.
It's something I'm not seeing amongst our elected betters.
And, as a nation, we're suffering because of it.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to

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