Recently, my husband and I faced a first-world problem; we moved from a large four-bedroom house with a two-car garage that we used for storage into a small three-bedroom condo with no garage.
Naturally, we had to pare down our belongings. Some choices were easy enough. I sold salt-and-pepper and Barbie doll collections I’d toted around in boxes for years. We jettisoned two large office desks that I had used for the business I recently sold. Most of the patio furniture was relinquished, as was a large sectional that would not fit in our new space.
Other choices were less easy and even created some strain on our relationship. For instance, what to do with a dining room table that was too big for our condo, but to which my husband is very attached? Do we keep the 13 bookshelves (and 100s of books they hold) or do we let go of some of both? Do we sacrifice the toaster oven to keep our efficiency kitchen from bursting at the seams?
We took time at each sticking point to discuss what the item of contention meant to the other person. There was some negotiating, horse trading, ego taming and compromising to be sure, but we wound up with a new living space that we are both loving.
If we hadn’t been able to reach agreement on the contentious items I suppose we could have unloaded the moving truck until the condo was full and taken everything else to Goodwill, even if that meant sacrificing our bed, or family photos, or (God forbid) our coffee pot! Sounds like a crazy scheme, doesn’t it?
Sequestration is just such a scheme — spending cuts so ham-handed that they might as well have been served up with sweet potatoes.
Republicans rave about how President Obama won’t compromise. Democrats counter that economists almost unanimously agree that our debt problems can only be solved by reasonable spending cuts balanced with revenue increases.
I have my opinions as to which party is mostly to blame for the crippling impasse our nation faces, but at this point, does it even matter? Each side has landed its best punches, and still the fight goes on. The crowd, now wary, is ready to go home.
I once worked on Capitol Hill so I know from personal experience that disagreement between the parties is nothing new, and that it’s often not a pretty process. What is new is a total lack of civility and willingness to find common ground. If Congress were a movie, it would be “War of the Roses.”
But Democrats and Republicans need not love each other like my husband and I do in order to make difficult choices. I learned that lesson during the dissolution my first marriage.
It did not start out friendly as these things are wont, but then something happened on the way to the mat. Our son Stuart became critically ill, and the one thing his dad and I could agree on at the time was that we both dearly loved our children. We quickly realized: 1) whatever differences we had paled by comparison to the need to find help for a very sick child; and 2) acrimony would not serve our mission. Suddenly every argument we’d had over who was at fault for the marriage ending or child custody seemed like so much time wasted. By necessity we began treating each other with civility, and before we knew it, respect. Now, some six years hence we celebrate birthdays and holidays together.
So here is my plea to Democrats and Republicans in Washington and everywhere: you both love your critically ill child — the United States of America. Whatever your differences, set them and your self righteousness aside. Get it together, and while you’re at it, save a life.
Roost works in the book publishing industry. Reader comments are encouraged.