As everyone is compiling their resolutions for the new year, I hope that a return to common sense is near the top of their list.
From the nation to the state and even the local political scene, people generally are fed up with the dysfunction, bickering and, at times, downright bizarre antics of elected officials, yet we are the ones who keep putting these same people into office.
We have never in the history of the world had such easy access to limitless information, but we are consumed, it seems, with viewing pictures of cats on Facebook posts instead of using the power of the Internet to seek out root knowledge on the things we find important. In fact, most of us actively ignore viewpoints that are contrary to our own as we seek not accurate information, but validation of our own views.
The danger of this type of thinking is that it tends to harden us in our often narrow viewpoints. If others think the same, it must be true. In reality, you can take just about any major issue we face and find legitimate points to be made for or against it. Everything is not simply painted in black or white, good or evil or the right way or the wrong way.
Take climate change. If you look around - from as near as Smith Island to as far as the Arctic - you can see evidence of how we are impacting our planet. And while about 3 percent of those who study climate change say we aren't the cause of climate swings, 97 percent agree that humans are a big contributor.
If you don't think that pollution is harmful, close the flue on your fireplace and let the smoke from the fire fill your house. No one in their right mind, of course, would do this because they know they likely wouldn't survive for long.
On the other side of the coin, the doomsayers who predict an end to all life on the planet if we don't make drastic changes immediately are just as bad. You don't go out and buy a new house because there is a leak in your roof. But you can patch the leak, or maybe replace the roof if that is what is necessary to fix the problem.
Let's resolve in 2014 to stop arguing about whether climate change is real and decide that it is just good sense to do everything we can to protect this fragile planet we live on, recognizing that changes we may make have to be incremental so as not to create havoc or financial turmoil worldwide.
This extends to the concept of sustainability as well. You don't go visit a friend or relative and trash their house, so why would it be acceptable to trash the planet? We're all just visiting here for a short time, and if keeping the planet in good condition for your children and children's children isn't reason enough to choose an environmentally friendly lifestyle, perhaps the embarrassment of acting like a pig in someone else's house is.
Let's all resolve to do what we can to keep our house clean. That type of common-sense approach likely won't work in the poisonous political environment in which we find ourselves. Democrats and Republicans on the extremes should do us all a favor and chill out. All Republicans are not greedy capitalists who want to hoard money at the expense of everyone else; and all Democrats aren't raving socialists who want to give your money to lazy slouches who don't want to work.
There was a time when common sense had a larger role in the decision-making process, back when people used to extend the common courtesy of listening to their opponents and, at times, even agreeing with some of the points they made. That isn't possible a lot of times now. Look at the extreme right wing of the GOP and their so-called purity tests. Even if something makes sense, if it goes against the party dogma you better not support it lest you are labeled a Republican In Name Only. The Democrats haven't sunk to this extreme at the national level, but you can see similar signs at the state level where one-party rule limits our view on many issues.
Let's agree that, as individuals, we don't have all the answers. And there are likely those on the other side of the issue that have legitimate points to make.
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Compromise isn't a dirty word; it is a way that adults come together to find common-sense solutions to complex and perplexing problems. Perhaps, in 2014, we can stop working against each other, and start working for a better America.