In American society, there is profound tension and disagreement over the role of rich versus poor, government versus corporations, individual versus collective, scarcity versus abundance.

None of these debates are new under the sun, but there’s been extra intensity in argument of late.

What’s the problem?

The problem arises when people pick a side, make it stand in for a community and an identity, declare that the other is “evil,” and do not budge. All logic is pushed aside. Rational debate flies out the window.

Checks and balances are a good thing. Our three branches of federal government, combined with a state system, were set up to promote them.

Corporations that seek to maximize profit and efficiency are a natural check and balance on government, which doesn’t operate with the efficiency that naturally comes from a bottom line.

At the same time, government representing the collective people are a check and balance on corporations, thus ensuring the health and safety of food, air and water.

I see this tension play out daily in my own brain — where the liberal guilt I picked up in college, sometimes partnered with compassion, butts up against the conservative practicality and understanding of the role of incentives that I’ve come to appreciate from corporate America.

This back-and-forth is not a bad thing. Individuals should be demanding of government, voting with their votes and opinion pieces, and demanding of corporations, voting with their dollars.

But to the sensational attention seekers: I wholly reject your unconsidered arguments.

Dig in your heels, refuse to debate, refuse to engage, and you’ve lost me. Call the other side stupid, and you’ve lost me. Use the word “evil” to describe a politician or CEO or corporation, and you’ve lost me. (In fact, just stop using the word “evil” outside of a religious context.)

Most of us are moderately liberal or moderately conservative, with a smattering of so-called “radical” beliefs on random issues.

We’re a nation of minds smart enough to invent airplanes, telephones, the Internet and hamburgers. Our political debate should be more intelligent.

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Update: 10:30 a.m.

Funny, in my inbox I just received a “special letter from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.” (All those lattes I buy gets me special treatment.)

He puts it more eloquently than I did:

We must celebrate all that America stands for around the world. And while our Founding Fathers recognized the constructive value of political debate, we must send the message to today’s elected officials in a civil, respectful voice they hear and understand, that the time to put citizenship ahead of
partisanship is now.


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On a lighter note, I want to share a movie line that plays in my mind whenever I read an article that suggests political in-fighting is getting out of hand.

Diego is a hotel butler character in the movie, Garden State. He sneaks people into a secret hotel hallway to watch hotel guests in their bedrooms. Diego appears to be running the whole illegal, disturbing, privacy-invading operation.

There’s one scene in the back of the hotel where the main characters start fighting. Diego interjects: “Hold up! Hold up! . . . So everybody just calm the -bleep- down!”

To get the full humor, see the clip:

If that doesn’t work: Garden State clip



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