Opinion: Conservatives and Liberals Want the Same Things

Walter Rhein

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One of the few things you can get liberals and conservatives to agree on is that the country is divided. We’ve been in a very hostile political situation for going on eight years. There has been too much violence in how we speak and behave toward each other.

But does it have to be like that?

When you look out at the landscape of the media, it’s not hard to find examples of stories that seem only to incite rage. Journalists are always on the hunt for clicks, so they cover sensational news regardless of how statistically irrelevant it might be.

Perhaps we would all be better served if we simply took a step back and took a larger view of the things that are important to us.

Can we all agree that both liberals and conservatives care about the health and future of their children? Perhaps even that is too much for some people to admit. But come on, at the end of the day your allegiance to your children has to be greater than your allegiance to your political affiliation.

We may not agree with how people with different views raise their kids, but we should be able at least to concede that they’re doing what they sincerely think is best for their children.

I believe that all Americans want to provide their kids with a good education.

The problem in our current political environment is that pundits with a political agenda move as quickly as they can off that point of agreement and try to manufacture a point of contention. They’ll say things like, “Of course, all parents want access to education, but the problem is that we’re fearful that schools will indoctrinate children.”

Did you see what happened there? They moved instantly to a point of fear. That doesn’t mean that this statement is wrong. Both liberals and conservatives indeed want education and not indoctrination.

Again, we see that there is overlap among differing political viewpoints. The question is, how do we bring our points of agreement to the forefront rather than constantly remain fixated on the differences?

Some people say that school is there to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Fine, that’s a good starting point. Therefore, I want my children to have access to schools that teach these three things with well-qualified and well-compensated teachers.

I know that people who want to sow the seeds of division will challenge everything in that statement. They’ll say you have to define “well-qualified” based on the fear that teachers with a “liberal” education will be indoctrinating kids.

They’ll say you have to define “well-compensated” based on the fear that the “liberal agenda” will demand teachers be compensated like NFL quarterbacks.

Why is nobody ever angry that quarterbacks who don’t win championships get tens of millions of dollars, and then the taxpayers are stuck paying for the stadiums? Why can’t those millionaires and billionaires pay for their stadiums?

Often, it feels like trying to negotiate with somebody who insists everything you propose is meant to cheat them. It can become exhausting to have to constantly confront all these poorly defined and statistically improbable fears.

For example, the idea that teachers can “indoctrinate” students is difficult for me to believe. If you’ve ever worked as a teacher, you’ll discover how difficult it is to get students to even complete an assignment. Our educational system provides plenty of protection for students.

Perhaps that represents an avenue to a point of agreement. Perhaps we should place a greater focus on teaching students their rights?

The whole United States of America is a country that has been built on providing citizens with protections against encroachments from the government. Those protections used to be taught in a class called civics.

However, civics was taken out of American high schools in the 1960s. Some people suggest it’s because the class was blamed for the activism of the Civil Rights era.

Maybe one of the reasons people feel powerless today is that they don’t know the correct avenues that are available to them to make their voices heard. Maybe that’s why we have riots.

It’s not hard to look around our country and see that our fellow citizens are struggling. There is always economic uncertainty even though banks seem to get a blank check every time they fail.

Can liberals and conservatives agree that it would be nice for somebody other than the upper class to get bailed out for a change? There’s a lot of focus on the relatively small amount of money that’s spent on social safety net programs, why aren’t we ever critical of the billions and trillions of dollars that go to the rich?

I think working-class people deserve to be paid more.

I think it creates a financial burden for our whole society when medical costs are the number one cause of bankruptcy.

I think more resources should be spent on ensuring our children have a better future.

I understand that most of the people who read my articles will disagree on the strategies for how we can achieve these outcomes. That’s fine.

But can we at least agree that we share these common objectives? Perhaps the key to finding unity is to simply take a step back and recognize that all parents love their children. This doesn’t change because of race, religion, or sexual orientation.

We’ve got to start somewhere. It’s a relatively small concession to allow yourself the assumption that a mother or father loves his/her child.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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