The next-to-impossible search for common ground

Common ground with these assholes? I don’t think so!

I went to the doctor earlier this week, one of those once-a-year sessions they schedule for codgers like me to gauge our health and determine just how many marbles we’ve lost.

The good news is that I’m still upright, and was even able to recall the three test words I was told to remember, but unlike Donald Trump, I didn’t view it as a great accomplishment. I also was able to accurately draw the hands of a clock pointing to 10 minutes after 11, wisely deciding not to ask whether they meant a.m. or p.m. Nobody likes a smart-ass.

I’ve had some good doctors over the years, but none compare to the one I have now. She seems like such a genuinely good person. Appointments are more like a conversation in your living room, if you can look past the fact that this living room has an exam table and cotton swabs. With Doc, as I call her, there’s never a sense of being rushed; she gets me to talk and listens to whatever ridiculous things I have to say.

During our most recent back-and-forth, and no doubt part of her assessment of my mental faculties, I said that I was probably like anyone else in that I have my good days and bad, and that recently I’d been pretty torqued by rulings from the Supreme Court. I’m fortunate to know from previous conversations with Doc that her head is in the right place when it comes to Trump and Trumpism, so I know I can speak freely on Trumpy topics. Significantly, that’s important to me.

It was then, however, that Doc surprised me when she suggested that when I’m angered by Trumpists, I might attempt to find common ground with them, presumably as a technique for cooling down my overcooked clams.

As an example, Doc took what I’d mentioned about the Supreme Court ruling and said that in a search for common ground, perhaps people might at least agree on the statement that it would be good for all concerned if there were fewer abortions, meaning that there was less demand for them, for whatever reason.

Her suggestion was sensible and I did not disagree.

Fewer abortions would probably mean fewer rapes and better, more accessible medical care for all, but with the important proviso (I added) that contraception not be outlawed, a notion currently being mulled by Christo-Nazi Republicans as their latest “good idea” in the wake of the Roe v Wade abomination.

You see, I’m incorrigible when it comes to finding the dark side of any argument.

During the drive home, I did some mulling of my own. I took Doc’s suggestion as a challenge, something to write about and perhaps even something that might lead to some much-needed peace of mind, a suggestion that, if more Americans adopted it, might result in less tribalism and a lowering of the temperature in our political environment.

That is a worthy goal.

I thought about how, in her practice, Doc no doubt encounters all kinds of people, including racist Republicans, gun-nut Republicans, religious-zealot Republicans, insurrectionist Republicans, just-plain-nasty Republicans — and at least one eccentric, yet sensible Democrat. I know that in every instance she must make good healthcare decisions and have warm, genuine conversations with all those Republicans despite their dangerous, crazy and often disgusting beliefs.

Still driving toward home, I didn’t think I could do what she and other healthcare professionals do every day. No, I wouldn’t intentionally try to injure any Republican no matter how objectionable his views might be, but on the other hand, I had to admit that I might occasionally get a little overly aggressive with the tongue depressor or syringe.

But while I’d never try to do actual harm, I also don’t think I can find common ground with such people, except in the broadest, most general terms. I am really thinking about it, however, and one thing I think is that the at-home colorectal cancer screening test Doc handed me on my way out will be easier and more pleasant than this finding common ground assignment.

Consider:

  • What possible common ground can I find with Republican white supremacists or with a former Republican president who suggested that all Mexicans are rapists and murderers, or that I might defeat Covid by injecting bleach or shining lights inside my body?
  • What common ground can I find with people who watch children mowed down with assault rifles yet still insist there should be no laws to restrict access to such weapons because, “Hey, I need me an AK-47 for deer huntin’!”
People like this guy in New York — north of the Mason-Dixon Line last time I checked — are still celebrating that initial racist insurrection called the Civil War.
  • What common ground can I find with people who still proudly wear Confederate flag caps and t-shirts right here in the supermarkets, on the streets, and in locations all across this country?
I see too much of this kind of shit just driving around town!
  • What common ground do I have with people who sport a Three Percenter decal on their vehicle while driving around my hometown? I’ve seen several. What common ground do I have with all those people driving cars with “Don’t Tread on Me” license plates, a historic symbol that has morphed into something more sinister, that is synonymous with Republicans, Trump, violent overthrow of the government and the end of democracy?
  • What common ground do I have with the commenter on this Facebook thread, a guy who was apparently triggered by my seemingly unobjectionable comment — on a baseball site of all places — where I wrote that I wished a post about racist former pitcher John Rocker had never been made because it gave bigots a venue on which to spew their filth. What possible reason, pal, would you have for calling me “gramps” and telling me to go to bed unless you were being dismissive of me because you think racism is a good thing? Full disclosure: I am a “gramps,” six times over, and proud of it!
Some 27,000 people reacted to this Facebook post about former pitcher John Rocker, a disgusting bigot. Most of the comments said Rocker was a great guy, and anyone who disagreed was just “woke.”

Though many of my incredulous bullet points above seem to indicate that I’m not taking Doc’s assignment seriously, I swear that’s not true. I agree with her, philosophically, that the world would be a better place if all of us could just get along and find that elusive common ground. But I can’t help thinking that in many instances, it would be healthier not to find common ground with a racist, or a gun nut, or a misogynist, or any theocracy-loving Christo-Nazi.

When you try to meet in the middle on issues like racism, gun-fueled mayhem and a woman’s right to choose, doesn’t that make you no better than them? Certainly there is such a thing as the moral high ground, and some issues are non-negotiable.

I agree that this country needs a healing, but I think it’s going to take people who are way above my pay grade to somehow pull it off, people who are surely better human beings than I will ever be.

In the meantime, fighting the fascists seems to me the best option and the healthiest option, even if getting all wound up and hating Republican pudknockers is inherently unhealthy. I don’t think I could live with myself otherwise.

In the final analysis, I am an American and, sadly, the Trumpists are also Americans. In most cases, that’s the only common ground I can find.

Is it enough? I’m sorry, but I don’t think it is.

8 thoughts on “The next-to-impossible search for common ground

  1. They don’t want common ground unless it’s their ground. I find it impossible to try to understand or communicate with someone who has a car full of hostile bumperstickers and a T shirt that says “Fuck your feelings.” it would be like trying to find common ground with Hitler because we both like beer and pretzels..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve done those tests and laughed out loud at your AM or PM joke- I’m sure she would have too☺️ But I do agree with you, I can’t either as the divide increases.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Given the issues you mentioned… racism, abortion, guns… finding common ground would indeed make you complicit. Perhaps you could change the topic and find comity in discussing the favorite foods or somesuch. I was going to suggest talking about the weather but that’s not a safe subject anymore. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. HI Glenn–I think the attempt to find common ground is admirable–thanks for taking a stab at it! It’s tough work no doubt! But when I was quite ill a few years back, the folks who brought casseroles and fed my family for months were from both sides of the political divide. It struck me then that the kindness shown to me was not red or blue, but just human, and it really made me want to try to see the good in each person underneath the things that divide us. Not that I don’t get hot about issues (I do), but I try to remember that there is humanity in the person across the divide.

    Here is a link to a remarkable story about what the power of sitting down together around a meal can do: https://onbeing.org/programs/derek-black-and-matthew-stevenson-befriending-radical-disagreement/.

    It is one of my favorite stories about how the power of love and befriending an enemy changed the course of a life.

    Keep writing, I’ll keep reading 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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