Monday, July 27, 2015

An Unlikely Friendship

I loved this article in the recent issue of Time magazine about the relationship between Bill Clinton and the Bush family. In an era of hostility from both sides of the aisle, this cover story painted such a picture of grace shown by both men. The article tells how these former presidents show acts of kindness to each other, even while maintaining their differences.


When George H. W. Bush left office after a difficult campaign, he left a gracious note for Bill Clinton as he began his presidency: “You will be our president when you read this note. I am rooting hard for you.” Bush had Clinton as a guest at Kennebunkport, Maine. Bill Clinton escorted Barbara Bush to Betty Ford’s funeral. George W. Bush and Clinton rib each other and show far more understanding toward each other than the general public often offers.  

Is it just me or do we only hear of the animosity between politicians?
We have become so partisan and uncivilized in our discussions that I doubt any of us on any side have maintained the power to persuade. Our postings on Facebook remind me of people standing nose-to-nose, screaming their views, but never listening, never caring, never respecting the thinking behind someone’s stance, often assuming there is no thinking. This isn't a call for us all to be the same, but could we learn to be respectful in our disagreeing?
At times, I’ve wondered what would happen if all my Facebook friends were forced into the same room. Would World War III break out, or would we learn some diplomacy? It’s so easy to write a snarky, disrespectful comment online, but it's a little more difficult to do so when looking into someone’s eyes as you sit across the table from them.
Must we demonize? Must we name call?
Here is a question for all us: When was the last time we invited “the opposition” into our home for a meal, or asked them to coffee, just to build a relationship? I suspect for many of us our panic sets in that we might be compromising our values or sending the message that we endorse their stances. But if we sat down for coffee together, could we possibly use diplomacy to find common ground and grow respect for the passion behind the other person’s views?
Our leadership today certainly models this name-calling and disrespect. Perhaps the behind-the-scenes relationships are far warmer than we’re allowed to witness, but we don’t know for sure. We have dysfunctional leaders who have bred dysfunctional kids. That’s us. We model their behavior by believing we must say nasty things, assuming anyone who doesn’t think like us is “an idiot” or “evil.”
That behavior is bad for the country, as Clinton states in the Time article.
As most of us know about dysfunctional families and systems, they are generational. The next generation has been barred from seeing healthy disagreement and debate, which results in more unproductive arguments and battles—like gridlock, and elected officials who can’t get along. Then, as the product of this dysfunctional system, we model that behavior in how we speak and treat one another.
More bad for the country.
So I propose a solution. What if George H.W. Bush or Bill Clinton invited all of us dysfunctional kids to Kennebunkport or New York for  a good old fashioned family visit? Either we would learn to find some commonality amidst the differences—building some unlikely friendships—or World War III would break out. Anyone game?