When I think about working with others, I think of concepts and values expressed in terms such as tolerance, respect, cooperation, compromise and collaboration. However, in today’s social and political climate, I fear that we are in danger of losing these types of concepts and values—the types of concepts and values that makes working with others for the benefit of all possible.
On one occasion, a relative of mine expressed a strong opinion on a sensitive topic and I did something terrible, I challenged my relative to have some empathy for others. You know, I expressed things like “walk a mile in their shoes before making judgment” and things like “be tolerant,” “consider all options,” “try to cooperate,” or I ask, “Is compromise possible?”
Well, I immediately got the on the fence reply. You know the one that uses energized phrases such as “take a stand,” “be a man,” “have courage,” “be willing to draw a line in the sand,” “if you are not with me you are against me,” and of course, “get off the fence!” Well, I was done; the others in the room were delighted with the response from my antagonist. They all seemed to take pride in their values system with little regard for soundly thrashing tolerance, empathy, cooperation, compromise and similar values. I left the room so my relatives could savor their victory.
Several years ago, this old grandpa “cut-out” a Sunday Parade magazine article titled Why We Need Franklin Today. Re-reading this article and the thoughts behind it made me ponder about our current political and social climate of “my way or the highway.”
Tuesday is the 300th anniversary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth, and Walter Isaacson, author of a best-selling biography, says we need someone like him now. Franklin said common sense, not ideology, should triumph—and that is what is missing in politics today, Isaacson explains. When the Constitutional Convention was about to collapse, Franklin told the other delegates each side would have to give up some demands to make a lasting Constitution. Compromises, he said, may not make great heroes but will make great democracies. “But,” Isaacson adds, “Frankl