Meeting in the Middle

I had one of those European experiences this morning. There was no room to sit in the local bagel shop, where I’d come hoping to review some writing along with breakfast, so I ended up sharing a table with a total stranger. Turns out we had plenty in common, when we were discussing our kids, but somehow, we got onto politics. We were quite different. One would expect fireworks, and yet…

…we had an amazing discussion. It was easy to tell where she and I diverged, but there were plenty of areas where we agreed. We talked a little about nearly everything, from education policy to global warming to redistricting to health care and found we shared far more common ground than the current freaked-out political vibe would lead you to believe.
It makes you wonder what those idjits in Washington are really all about. Between the two of us, Ms. Stranger and I could have solved some hugely knotty national problems, and we did this over bagels in less than an hour. Neither of us had patience for people who don’t think or appear to have the capacity (*cough* Sarah Palin *cough*), nor did we appreciate the all-out monetary grubfest indulged in by too many in Congress. We also bemoaned the lack of common sense and actual voices in the debates over serious problems–for example, why aren’t they talking to teachers when making education policy instead of the people who publish textbooks and educational software, or union leaders who have never seen or worked inside a classroom? Why can’t we all agree that a growing population has some effect on the world’s environment? Why are the only voices we’re hearing so far out on the fringes that the rest of us are annoyed and increasingly disconnected?
It was a quick hour and an interesting one. My new acquaintance and I ended up exchanging numbers, though I doubt we’ll ever see each other again. Still, it gives you pause: if two strangers can meet, disagree cordially, and leave with respect, why can’t the people we’re paying to do that job manage the same?

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