#395 – Dick Bernard: Day Five of the Minnesota Shutdown. Compromise; Reason vs Belief

My 1979 Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary (p. 374) says this about the word “Compromise …compromised…compromising:
1) to adjust and settle (a difference) by mutual agreement, with concessions on both sides.
2. to agree: to accord [Obs].
3. to lay open to danger, suspicion, or disrepute: to endanger the interests of.
4. to surrender or give up (one’s interests, principles, etc.)”

An alternative second definition is “1. to make a compromise or compromises. 2. to agree.” Then comes a third: “Compromiser. one who compromises or believes in compromise.”
Oh how easy. Oh how impossible.
The word “compromise” will become the word of the day, week and month as people weigh in on how to settle the dangerous disagreement that has shut down the State Capitol.
In our current political society, when it comes to the most committed on each side, “compromise” has come to mean weakness (“4. to surrender…”) rather than mutual strength “to adjust and settle (a difference) by mutual agreement…”. I have watched this evolve for many years, particularly given my career work environment which required parties who were sure of the rightness of their position to finally come to some agreement about their differences. Yes, one side could bludgeon the other side into an undesired agreement, but that was a short term solution that often bit back, hard.
In our obsession with winning, we have become a society of losers. The endless parade of words over the last days, wherever I have looked, all have essentially the same direction: “if only the others would agree to my interpretation of what is best for this state (and we could substitute “country” as easily) all would be good.”
Only if I win, will I be satisfied. Only if the other party comes more than half the way, first, and admits defeat, will I come to an agreement.
It doesn’t work that way, folks.
We learn the real strength of “compromise” and we learn it very soon, or we’re in trouble.
At this moment in history, there is a “winning” side, and it is identified by the general term “radical right wing”. Its cover is the name “Republican”, but it is not Republican in any traditional context. It knows how to “win”, by use of words, by absolute refusal to compromise except on its own narrow terms, by substitution of basics like facts and reason with things like belief.
We see its calculation of its strength, and then its application of brute force in the use of that strength, to obstruct or deny the legitimacy of any other point of view.
Very carefully it has carved out its winning strategy, and it has worked…so far.
But as we are beginning to find out, through the government shutdown in Minnesota, and the rapidly approaching latest crisis in Washington D.C., we are living on the brink of disaster.
We learn to compromise, or we slowly die the death of a thousand cuts.
I tend to be an optimistic sort.
My optimism is being sorely tested.

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