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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Can We Meet on Common Ground?

From Sue...and the Rhythm Corps (click for musical inspiration as you read)

Can we meet
on common ground?
Or are our views so far apart
there's no room to be found?

The one thing I keep being told in all of this chatter around the city is that perhaps the sides of the issues are not so very different.

Everyone says they love this city.
Everyone says they support the Troy Public Library.
Everyone says they want to see Troy regain strength and vitality.

Can't we just find that common ground and being to dialogue from there, then?

I honestly do not know if we can.

Can we meet
on common ground?
Are you walls of brick and stone
And far from tumbling down?

Now, before you accuse me of being pessimistic or close-minded, hear me out. One definition of common ground means “a foundation for mutual understanding.” So far, my attempts to lay that foundation have consisted of me banging me head against wall of brick and stone.

For example, when I say I want a library…that I DESPERATELY want the city to find temporary funding so it doesn’t HAVE to close…but that all evidence we’ve had points to a lack of funding, those who disagree with me call me names and say I’m wrong. They don’t prove WHY I’m wrong, though. When I further explain that funding a library “with no new taxes” means DE-funding something else to the detriment of the rest of the city infrastructure, I’m accused of wanting “all or nothing!”

Ok…if that’s true, then why can no one tell me what THEIR common ground is?

What KIND of a library will we get with no new taxes?

How MUCH will it cost?

WHERE will it be?

There’s no substance in response. There’s no answer.

There’s no common ground.

I'll not play the scene
where the threats start flying;
you'll not have to scream
because we're not that stupid.

For me, the ability to meet on common ground further disappears when the political tactics are pulled out.

Anyone truly interested in SINCERE dialogue doesn't lie to me.

Anyone truly interested in working with me doesn't pander to one audience one day and then turn around and woo the next audience with a different tune.

Anyone truly interested in common ground doesn't shout louder and louder and become more and more unglued when simply challenged to prove a point or to provide factual evidence to support claims.

Most especially, anyone looking for common ground doesn't work with every fiber of their body and lots dollars in their bank account to defeat honest citizen initiatives.

(On that note, if you can explain to me the logic of spending thousands of dollars to save yourself $100, I’d appreciate it.)

For me, there is no common ground when one side has to play tricks and tell lies to make their point.

Can we meet
on common ground?
Or are our views so far apart
there's no room to be found?

Another troubling point for me has to do with labels and political posturing.

Suddenly, if I support my library and don't mind paying for it, I am a tax-and-spender.

If I say that our revenue stream is too low to sustain our services, I'm a radical tax and spender.

If I support the library, know the revenue stream is too low to sustain the city services, and feel a millage might be beneficial to shore up our general fund, I'm a card-carrying party member and precinct delegate of the radical tax-and-spenders and BY GOLLY I SHOULD BE TARRED AND FEATHERED AND DOUSED IN TEA!

Silly me; I thought the reason we paid taxes in Troy was so that our city government COULD spend those dollar on things I like and appreciate.

We pay taxes, they spend them, I get services. Why is that so wrong???

Can we speak
without a sound
of a world gone quite insane?
Can we start settling down?

It also seems that many of my fellow residents believe that the louder you talk, the more truthful your words become.

At one recent community engagement session, a gentleman stated an inaccuracy as though it were truth. Another Troy resident corrected it. He refuted the correction and repeated his bogus claim again. Then Councilman Fleming stopped him and corrected him. YET HE STILL INSISTED HE WAS RIGHT.

Why? Because another tactic seems to be that when faced with irrefutable proof that you are wrong, you should simply interrupt, reframe the argument and say it again another way. Better yet, insult the city government when you do it. It appears that even if you are completely wrong, kicking dirt on someone in charge taps into a general mistrust of government – no matter who is in office or who was ultimately responsible for whatever it is that made you unhappy.

If that is the only noise anyone hears, we have no choice but to listen. However, what I’m beginning to realize is that if you let these shrill voices speak and let a growing audience of skeptics hear it without agitation in response…that new audience will begin to challenge. That once quiet group of “sleeping giants” as I’ve heard them called will then take up the mantle of reasonability and reform.

Then we can start settling down to the real work of rebuilding our city.

Can we meet
on common ground?
Or are our views so far apart
There's no room to be found?

Maybe it’s not really a question of meeting on common ground.

Maybe it’s a question of rescuing those on shaky footings and bringing them to a firm foundation – one built on respect, common sense and a mutual TRUST.

I'll stand on that ground. Will you?