by Dick Luedke
If you’re looking for a little amusement, find a three-year-old and present him/her with a piece of paper that contains only the borders of the state of Illinois. Ask the youngster to scribble inside those borders for a while. Then find a map that outlines Illinois’ current Congressional districts. Next, ask a nearby adult to tell you which one was created by a three-year-old and which one was the work of the Democratic and Republican Parties in the Land of Lincoln. Not everyone will get it right.
While Illinois appears to be leading the way, the gerrymandering of districts in the interest of creating lopsided Congressional elections is something at which politicians in most of our states have become extremely adept. Democrats are willing to sacrifice potential supporters in one district in exchange for even more domination in another. Republicans feel exactly the same way. It’s pretty much the only issue on which our two major political parties agree.
And so Capitol Hill is dominated by lawmakers who have been elected by constituencies at one or the other of the extreme ends of the political spectrum. We cannot claim to be surprised at the resulting gridlock.
Not Like-Minded People
With this introduction, let me now tell you about a friend who happens to be a staunchly conservative Republican. What separates him from every other politically oriented person I know is his strong desire to meet people who are totally unlike him. He has an insatiable thirst for interacting with those who have had totally different life experiences than he has had and who therefore think differently than he does.
As I became aware of his strong appetite for people with divergent backgrounds and thoughts, my admiration for him grew. I have since attempted. to emulate his tendencies.
With a few exceptions, I don’t believe this effort has significantly changed my own political beliefs. In fact, I think it has made me more resolute about what I believe. And as counter-intuitive as that might sound, it makes total sense to me.
If you’re going to debate with someone about a particular issue, the better you understand what your fellow debater believes about the issue, and why he or she believes it, the more effective you will be in presenting your beliefs on the issue, the better you will understand the reason for those beliefs.
Which is why unity at political conventions is vastly overrated. My belief is that the conflict between supporters of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and the disunity involving the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton camps at the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer was a good thing, good for America.
Perhaps more than any other nation in the world’s history, America was built by people who came from significantly varying backgrounds. The fact that these people came here, not only with different backgrounds and previous life experiences, but also with significantly varying ideologies is, in my view, what most makes this country a wonderful place in which to live.
We are all too familiar with nations where everyone is (or so it appears) in lock-step with everyone else. If the United States becomes a nation of two distinct groups of lock-steppers, the result will not be much better.
Embrace the Difference
And so I encourage you to embrace those who not only look and and pray differently than you do, but who think differently than you. Find out as much as you can about what makes them tick. You’ll learn more than you can imagine about what makes you tick.
And let’s ask an independent third party to draw Congressional maps that don’t look like the scribbling of a three-year-old.