My wife and kids and I live in a house full of compromises.
From the second we wake in the morning, compromises are being made:
Who gets up first to deal with the kids?
Who makes the lunches?
Who takes which kid to school?
Throughout the day, compromises continue:
Who unloads the dishwasher?
Who folds the pile of laundry that’s been growing since the last full moon?
Who forces the kids to clean the constantly cluttered playroom?
Usually these compromises are sorted out several ways. The first criteria is who did that chore or task the day before or who’s done it most over the past few days. The other person will likely pick up the ball and do the work. The second criteria? The fact that the chore or task has to be done. Sometimes there’s no time or opportunity to compromise. You have to jump in and get it done.
We understand compromise and, on most occasions, these situations are dealt with non-verbally. I don’t ask my wife, “Will you unload the dishwasher this time? I did it yesterday.” And she doesn’t ask me, “Could you please clean the toilet? It’s got stains from the first Obama Administration.” We live under the same roof and there are things that have to get accomplished. So you simply do it.
Why do I bring this up? Because in some quarters of this country (Ahem, Washington, D.C), compromise is seen as unthinkable. It’s akin to agreeing with your enemy. Compromise gets the Neville Chamberlain treatment even if it’s over something that everyone should agree on like say, funding for a major health scare. Why is this? How can regular families like mine find a way to compromise dozens of times throughout the day over tasks that no one wants to do while our leaders find compromise to be as appetizing as swallowing cough syrup? And, more importantly, how can we change it?
When it comes to compromise, I often think about money. Our family budget sometimes feels like it has more holes in it than a power-hitter’s swing. We compile our list of wants and needs and it always seems like, no matter how much we earn, there’s never enough to go around. That leads to tough choices and, yup, compromise. We have to pick and choose which things we fund and which we don’t. Unfortunately, while millions of Americans have learned to practice this necessary like skill on a daily basis, our Congressional leaders have not.
The ultimate inability to compromise leads to divorce, on a personal level. If, over time, a couple is unable to find common ground on these important matters, it leads to instability, vitriol and a likely break-up. Fortunately, my wife and I have weathered many of these storms over the years and have discovered a few ways to manage these crises. We discuss our desires and try to work towards the best common ground solution we can find. We try to do it with a minimum of arguing.
Could our political leaders do the same? If they see compromise as a 4-letter word I say that we, the voters, divorce ourselves from them.