“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that, among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Sound familiar? Having flashbacks to 7th grade history? Me too. The Declaration of Independence contains one of the most recognizable and quotable lines in history and it has a nice ring to it – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Regardless of your political affiliation, polls have shown most Americans are unhappy with the job performance of our representatives on Capitol Hill. It is hard to turn on a news program without hearing the constant arguing that seems to be the new normal in D.C. It is as exhausting to watch as it is, I am sure, to participate in, and it is not making anyone happy. Take a good look at John Boehner’s face on any given day and tell me that man is not miserable. So, where is the happiness? It is missing in government.
There is another part of The Declaration of Independence that reads, “…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…” Bear with me, I am not suggesting a massive overhaul, nor am I suggesting we abolish anything. Perhaps simply alter government: put Mediators in Congress, not as members, but simply as neutral parties armed with conflict resolution skills that will allow both sides of the aisle to compromise.
The issues plaguing our government are so polarizing that, no matter where you turn, someone feels like they are going to lose. So often the idea of conflict in our society is resolved in a way in which one party is right and “wins” and one party is deemed wrong and “loses.” It happens most of the time in our court systems. This is not always the most productive path to conflict resolution and it certainly is not the most effective way to govern. We have all, in our lives, gotten to a point of diminishing returns in a conflict – be it with a spouse, a friend, or a co-worker. Such a point occurs when neither side is listening and everyone feels like they have something to lose if they budge from their position or, better yet, they disagree with an issue simply because the other side agrees with it. In government this is referred to as political gridlock and it happens all the time. Let’s take away that option but allow everyone the ability to save face. A mediator’s skill lies in allowing parties the ability to compromise without looking weak. A mediator gives the issue space to breath and offers a third option: a solution instead of more conflict. Imagine, both sides of the aisle given the ability and tools to govern effectively. At the very least I think the House and Senate could use a class in conflict resolution techniques.
Consider this a Declaration of Resolution: somebody please put mediators in Congress!