The week Barack Obama made The Speech About Race, I've been working on another conversation America needs to have. Nominally, it is about guns and the right to self-defense, but the larger topic is Obama's.
How do Americans with differences form a more perfect union?
My discussion with Joel Rosenberg is ongoing. For some, my side of it has been too general and naive, as Obama has been accused of being. Some others might mistake Joel's desire for clarity and doggedness about change as bellicosity, but committed struggle, too, was something Obama endorsed.
As two verbal and opinionated bloggers, we could easily have fallen to skewering each other in comment threads and planting unanswerable tarbombs in our posts. That can happen when you don't do hard time in conversation and jump right into the fight. When you fill in the other's words for them. When you stick with your tribe and brand Them as embodying all your fears.
Instead, we've tried to have a conversation and actually listen to each other. Sometimes, it's gotten rocky or we've wandered off the tracks we'd each hoped to follow. At times, I've risked coming across as weak by simply letting Joel say his piece instead of standing up to every utterance with which I might have some difference.
Obama talked about that, too.
We may not move the other very far from where we started, but that's not the main point. It's to show how such a respectful conversation can take place, and then another, and then another, until we find that common thread that will lead to a better solution than the one we have.
I'm not a lawyer or a politician, so the modes of debate and fierce advocacy don't speak to me. As a career creative problem-solver, I've dedicated myself to discovering new ideas and reinvigorating old ones. I don't think good creative solutions come from fighting — or from compromise. But a new idea almost always brings together opposites in a new way.
If you were my client, I wouldn't show you all this work in process, because I'd want to dazzle you with my solution later. But here, I'm willing to show how messy and difficult this business can be, so that you won't be discouraged when your own efforts at reaching across the divide don't produce anything right away.
I don't know exactly how this will conclude, but I am full of hope.