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As Long as We Remember...

March 7, 2018

Were Better Than Confrontational Attitudes

Guest Columnist

Harold “Bud” Otis

What we see in Washington now is quite different from the days of President Ronald Reagan, a courageous man who used his personal wit and intelligence to keep the Office of the President a respected seat, not simply of power, but of positive influence and dignity.


As a country, we were proud to have had him as our president. He is one of my role models. President Reagan was a strong, patient, stately man who was honored by others for listening to not only his close advisors, but others with different points of view. Then, after deliberation, he made rationed, well-balanced decisions.


His sense of humor helped him with the press. His demeanor was strong and kind at the same time. Many things were accomplished during his term. He worked with others to make things come to fruition. Notably he would comment that when a negotiation was finalized, unless both sides of the deal didn’t come away a bit unhappy, then it was an unbalanced solution.


Negotiation and compromise were highly valued in that era. We didn’t judge a winner by a “winner takes all” attitude. A winner of a negotiation wasn’t singular – it was plural. Both sides came away with some of what they wanted and some things they wished they could have had, but didn’t get. In the final analysis, it was Win-Win.


Today we have more commonly what appears to be a dictatorial stance, “My way or the highway.” It is evidenced daily on Twitter, Facebook, other social media platforms, in newsprint, television, and live streaming. We can’t get away from the barrage of mind-numbing negatives – from both sides of the aisle. The Republicans are angry with the Democrats. The Democrats are angry with the Republicans. The Independents are scorned by both parties.


What is going on? I know a lot of people. People. Not labels. I don’t talk to people and see a big “R” or “D” or “I” embossed on their foreheads. My discussions are with fellow human beings. I want to know what others think. It is really nice to chat and be civil.


Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I truly believe it is better to listen to all sides than to simply impose “my side” on someone, or simply take the other person’s viewpoint without looking at the whole picture.


Nowadays, it seems that instant access to information has made us much more reactive from behind anonymous screen names.


How easy is it to fall in line with what others believe to be the full picture? How easy has it become to just “click” the “like” or “angry” button when reading a one sentence synopsis of a meeting, or event, or legislation or any issue? How refreshing when someone reaches out to you and says, “I know what others are saying about you. I’ve seen you to be a thoughtful legislator. How about meeting and talking about what prompted you to take this particular stand on this issue?” Wow – Yes!


I jump at any opportunity to meet and talk with anyone who is poised to listen and we can converse.


How much do you think there is hidden beneath the surface of an iceberg? Ninety percent. Think about that – only 10 percent is shown above the water line.


That’s an analogy for what is happening to our social interactions which generate responses to headlines. That’s all they are – headlines.  There is a lot of material behind the scenes which may be ignored by the reporters – either social media pundits or actual reporters.


Please – don’t fall into the trap of judging an issue on one-tenth of the story. Dig deeper. What has happened to agreeing to disagreeing and remaining respectful of each other? We are better than this current state of affairs.


[Editor’s Note: Mr. Otis is president of the Frederick County Council.]


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