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Miscellaneous Monday: The Meaning of Compromise

August 1, 2011

So Congress and the President have apparently reached a “tentative” agreement over the debt ceiling/debt crisis/current nonsense regarding the economy.

Mazel Tov.

What they did not do was demonstrate that any of them have a meaningful grasp of the concept of compromise.

Compromise, according to the Republicans, seems to mean: You give us everything we want, and also a pony.

Compromise, according to the Democrats, seems to mean: We’ll give you everything you want and the pony as long as you promise that the next time we have to compromise we actually get something that we want/need too.

And we all know what happens the next time that “compromise” is called for.

The thing is, even a six-year old knows that this isn’t really compromise. In fact, a six-year old might rightly call this for what it really is: Bullying. It’s also somewhat embarrassing for me, as an American citizen, watching our government in operation and knowing that all of our Congress-persons (and, dare I say it, our President) missed the day in Kindergarten where they talked about sharing.

Compromise means that everyone gets a little bit of what matters to them, and at the same time gives up a little bit of something else. It is, literally, a settlement of differences by mutual concession. It is not about holding to party lines, or making grand speeches, or getting everything that you want while your opponent suffers. That is a far more Roman view of democracy than what we have developed here in the US. More importantly, compromise is NOT a dirty word. True compromise requires a level of maturity and empathy that adults of our species are supposed to have by the time they participate in important things like, oh, I don’t know… deciding the fate of a country. I have yet to see anyone in Congress or the White House display this level of maturity.

I don’t know that my comments will add much to the discourse, but I have been very frustrated with the level of friction between our Commander-in-Chief and our current Congress. Do they really think that people voted them into office so they could behave like a bunch of children on the playground?

On second thought… I take that back, and apologize to school-aged children everywhere. They are much better behaved than our Senators and Representatives.

I think what is called for here is not another “deal”, or a raising/lowering of the debt ceiling, but perhaps a visit from Miss Manners or Emily Post to give our fine legislators a quick tutorial in how one should comport oneself when in public. And barring that, a visit from their parents (should they still be living, given the age of some of our friends on Capitol Hill…) because they are probably ashamed of the way their children are behaving.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to take my pony and go home.

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