Vasquez: Let’s stop punching holes in leaking boat


Have you noticed how political disagreements that once were a healthy component of our democratic society have morphed into a toxic brew of disdain, disrespect and mistrust? It seems we can no longer entertain a different political opinion without denigrating the holder of the opposing view.

Worse yet, we seem to have lost the ability to see beneath disagreements and find common goals and principles. If I am right, we say, then surely you must be wrong … and probably stupid, too.

So, here we find ourselves — all in the same leaking boat certainly, but continuing to punch more holes in the bottom. And we have a big decision on the horizon. We, the voters, hold the future of the American experiment in our hands.

Lately, we are not doing so well. America is struggling. The poison of divisive politics has weakened our union and divided our people. Foreign opportunists have smelled the blood in our waters and are doing all they can to divide and weaken us further.

Now, more than ever, is the time when we must commit to protecting our fragile democracy — no matter our political persuasion.

We will not achieve this if we continue to act as political partisans rather than fellow citizens with common goals, albeit different ideas about how to achieve them. When we exploit our differences, we become blind to our similarities. We objectify other people instead of encountering them as human beings.

This is a time when we must seek the ties that bind us as a nation. This is not a time to underscore our differences, as tempting as it may seem. This is certainly not a time to ridicule those who think differently or plan to vote differently than we do.

Oh, yes, it is ever so tempting and most delicious to lob creative insults at one another. We must stop that. Now.

There is time yet — but not much of it — for us to engage in respectful and constructive conversation. Most importantly, there is still time to listen to one another.

Listen with your whole mind and heart. Seek to understand what lies beneath the words, even if you disagree or if those words offend you. Actively search for points of agreement and be sure to acknowledge them. If you have a different idea, explain what it is.

Perhaps you will change someone’s mind. Maybe, even your own.

Erma Vasquez of McMinnville retired as Assistant Director of the Oregon Youth Authority. Prior to that she taught high school English and was a child protective services worker for DHS. She enjoys reading, cooking, and traveling with her husband and two fat cats.


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