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Communication, compromise good for government, too

The marriage counselor listens attentively as the man and woman who sit across the coffee table from him detail their struggles and frustrations.

Each expresses a desire to put aside their differences and work together for the sake of their marriage, for the welfare of their children, for the good of the family.

The counselor leans forward and says clearly, “It seems that the real issue in your relationship is miscommunication. You need to communicate better.”

The wife and husband turn and point at each other, saying in unison, “Did you hear that? You need to communicate better.”

Unfortunately, that’s the way communication — and miscommunication — work/don’t work, between individuals and across the aisle in the U.S. Congress.

Watching the State of the Union address Tuesday night seemed at times like watching a ballgame, a pep rally, Dr. Phil and a bad reunion episode of “The Bachelor.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi rolled her eyes and gestured with both hands toward President Donald Trump as he made statements about such things as New York’s extended term abortion law and the statements by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam that he would be in favor of a bill that allowed an unwanted newborn baby to die “comfortably” and consider it abortion.

When the president said all life should be valued and protected, more than half of those in attendance for the SOTU stood and applauded. A few of those who did not shook their heads with arms crossed. One waved his hand at those standing and mouthed his disbelief of support for such a statement.

When Trump said members of Congress should reach across the aisle and work in bipartisan efforts toward goals that benefit the country, he got three reactions.

The first was from just a few people who sat and didn’t move a muscle. Two of the men were well advanced in age and moved very little throughout the entire speech, except when they were recognized for their bravery and contributions to the country, and were helped to stand by those sitting with them. One was a woman my wife and I were pretty sure should be checked for a pulse.

The other two groups responded in basically the same manner — they gave standing ovations, smiling and applauding the proposed bipartisanship.

The difference between the groups was that each heard exactly what they wanted to hear. Trump’s supporters heard that Trump opponents should change their minds and compromise to go along with their plans, proposals and methods. Trump’s opponents heard that Trump supporters should change their minds and compromise to go along with their plans, proposals and methods, instead.

“Did you hear that? You need to communicate better.”

You need to compromise.

You need to change.

We can stay the same and not budge.

But it doesn’t really work that way. All it does is continue not working.

I don’t align with any political party. I am fiercely independent. But truth is immutable. There is no such thing as “your truth” or “my truth.” That’s absurd. Truth cannot be compromised. But differences of opinion can be set aside to work on solutions for a common good.

A favorite quote of mine from a TV sitcom years ago came from the star Patrick Warburton: “Marriage is all about compromise. She wanted a cat and I didn’t. So we compromised, and got a cat.”

No one can control how someone else behaves. But we can control how we behave.

If I want to make friends, I must be friendly. If I want to be treated kindly, I must treat others kindly. Want respect or love? Give respect. Give love.

Do I want there to be more love in my marriage, more patience, clearer communication, etc.? Then I must give more love, be more patient, communicate more clearly and, um, et cetera.

It’s the same thing in government.

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com or 601-265-5307.