Have you ever sat in a room with a group of people you kind of know while a political television show or a presidential debate was going on via a television set in the room?
I did that earlier this week as I sat with friend at a hospital in Salt Lake after surgery. A number of other people came in while I was there and the television was tuned to the Presidential candidate debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
While we talked, in the background you could hear the two candidates bantering back and forth. I could also tell that while people were talking, they had an open ear listening too.
Every once in awhile someone would comment on the debate. Not knowing how people in the room were bent politically, I basically said nothing. I just felt that with the person who just had surgery in the room and feeling a bunch of pain, we didn't suddenly want the room to turn into some kind of loud discussion about the good and bad points of the candidates.
While this was going on nurses and others came into the room taking care of things that needed to be done for my friend.
I asked one of them if the debate was on in every patient room and she said "No a few are watching the Giants beat the tar out of the Cardinals."
Okay, that kind of situation could be just as inflamatory. I was actually glad I was in the room with a debate rather than a died in the wool Cardinal fan.
As I listened to the subtle comments it became apparent there was a decided left-leaning view amongst most that were there. Maybe that is because the patient is a little to the left of center and no one wanted cause more discomfort, but the group was tending to be closer to Obama than Romney.
As the debate went on more comments came out until finally there was actually discussion going on. Most who read my columns know that I am pretty middle-of-the-road which to means I am left-of-center on some things and right-of-center on others. I just watched as the discussion progressed, as any good fence sitter does. I do have people who hate that I won't take sides on some issues, but then I hate back taht they try to make me be something that I am not.
As the debate ended the discussion had come along and even some hospital staff had joined in a little. There was obviously a very different set of opinions on some things, yet the discussion was civil and issue oriented. Nobody called Romney a spoiled rich guy and nobody called Obama a liar and or a socialist.
I suddenly had an epiphany. The old United we stand, divided we fall saying, well it fell to the wayside. This was a grassroots, informal, unorganized, political discussion. People were having give and take and some even said that those with a different view had a valid opinion and they would need to consider it.
Now I allow for the fact everyone in the room was very educated, most having at least a masters degree in something. But this discussion was not from the brain as much as it was from the heart. It was emotional, yet not out of control.
It was in a word, educational. Not about the issues involved, but in the way differences can unite people in earnest discussion. There were no names called, no charges leveled, no painful emotional outbursts.
What I saw was strength, the strength of the American system of politics. No one there thought another was unpatriotic because they wanted rights for gay people and no one thought someone was a brute because they believed in the second amendment.
What I saw was the real America, the one where we can have differences, think someone else is wrong, yet walk out of the room being cordial to each other. It was in two words, eye opening.
I just wish the candidates running for office could do this instead of resorting to name calling and distortions of anothers voting record.
In this case that strength comes out as division, not unison. It's how we should get things done in America: Logical, honest discussion. And any politician that would do that would once again become a statesman in my book.
What about yours?