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31 Dec

Picture the following if you will.

We, all of us, you, me, your annoying neighbor, everyone, live in one big apartment building.  Some of us pay more rent and have more amenities, but everyone lives in the same building.  There is a building security office and other services, some open to everyone, some open to those who have the means to pay extra for them.

There are policies that pertain to every resident in the building, and we all have some say in those policies.  There is a floor captain who represents us, and we can vote every few years for a new person if we don’t like our floor captain.  Certain floors or areas of the building have their own traditions, and within reason can make their own rules, but if you don’t like the rules you are free to relocate to another area of the building more to your liking.  And of course, there is a tenant association that we elect every few years to kind of run the whole show.

In this scenario, we all have our individual freedoms, but obviously for the building to function  we all need to be able to get along and not annoy the you-know-what out of each other.  The building is well built, but the walls aren’t so thick that we can do whatever we want and not get on each other’s nerves.  For the system to work, we need to understand that we all live here, we all have certain rights and privileges, but we all have certain responsibilities too. 

In other words, if the building succeeds, we all do better.  If it burns to the ground, no matter the reason, we are all screwed.

In this building there are religious tenants (all religions), non-religious folks, people who own guns, people who hate guns, people who do good things for others, people who don’t interact with anyone else at all, highly educated tenants, and tenants who didn’t finish high school, etcetera and ad infinitum. 

Sound familiar?

Aside from the fact that there is no parking garage traffic nightmare to deal with (well, except in California), this analogy can be applied to our country. Except right now, the building seems to be polarized into two groups who:

  1. Blame the other group for everything and
  2. Don’t want to listen to the other side and
  3. Don’t appear to want to compromise, at least significantly.

In addition a lot of the tenants seem way more focused on themselves than on the building as a whole.

This is a recipe for disaster.  Sooner or later, this building will be unsafe and won’t be worth living in for anyone, no matter what rent you are willing to pay.  Those who can afford to move to another building will, and those left will see the building spiral further into a slum, until another management company exerts a hostile takeover.

We are losing sight of the fact that we are not just individuals, we are part of a larger body.  That body needs to recognize that we need a bit more compromise if we are all going to have a place to live that we can be proud of.  Yes, we have individual rights and freedoms, but not to the point where it infringes on the basic rights and freedoms of others.  We all have a responsibility to keep this building safe for us, our families, and each other, and we are all not going to get exactly what we want.  More and more we seem to be worried about our just our apartment or floor and screw the rest.

I recognize that this is not a perfect analogy; few exist.  Some of you have found several holes in my comparison and will e-mail them to me at length (I still love you!). But the point remains, if we can’t work together to make the whole place better for everyone, it’s going to be good for no one.  That’s not good. 

Of course, the obvious first illustration of this is getting vaccinated, and it is applicable there to be sure.  But it goes beyond that, and applies to everything.  This country used to stand for freedom, which came by compromise from all interested parties (yes, there are huge gaps in that, like treatment of the Native Americans, but it’s true more than not).  Now it’s turned into “I’m right, so you MUST be wrong.”  No rational person, group, or society can function that way, at least not for long.

The tenant association isn’t perfect.  The neighbors aren’t perfect.  To be sure, there are issues.  But they are surmountable if we work together and get back to the basics of freedom AND compromise, with a healthy balance of both.

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