Common Ground


Watching the news coverage of the fires in California the last few days it occurred to me that no firefighter, no police officer, no volunteer, no regular Joe or Joleen, stopped to ask anyone whose life they were saving if they were a Republican or a Democrat, if they were in the country legally or illegally, if they were Christian, or if they were politically correct.

People and animals have died. Many people are listed as missing, and the sad sense that they are missing because they are dead is becoming stronger.

Still, people hope and pray for miracles, and for the survivors, and their families, friends, and for animals both domestic and wild. Still we donate* to help survivors begin to recover. Some survivors do not have so much as a change of underwear.

Is this what it takes to bring people together in their humanity? The common ground of crisis?
Recently an essay by a man named Evan Sayet came across my computer screen. He said the Democrats have been conducting a war against Republicans the last fifty years, while the Republicans have behaved with nothing but dignity, propriety, and collegiality.

How true. I choke up when I think of how fairly and respectfully the Republicans treated Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and how Republicans have always been ready and willing to seek bipartisan solutions in Congress.


I went to Mr. Sayet’s web site. He labels himself a “conservative comedian.” I watched a video of one of his routines. He leads off by saying that liberals are “the stupidest of the stupid.” His audience ate it up, laughing loudly.

Ouch. Not much common ground there.

He also posits in a piece on his website that Jews vote Democrat because “they feel safer in a party that is devoid of any values or convictions.” Republicans have Christian values, he says, so Jews fear them.

Ouch, again. The Democrats I know have solid values and convictions. Some are Christians, some agnostics, some atheists, some Muslim, some Buddhist, some Hindu, some Sikh, some Wiccan, some none of the above, and they tend to respect one another’s differences.
No common ground there.

I once knew a man from the Netherlands who is deceased now. During World War II he was sent by the Germans to a labor camp in Poland. He was a teenager then and managed to survive the war. He told me that the Germans had “Gott mit uns” on their belt buckles and he snorted in derision. So much for Christian values.

Back to the conservative comedian – Sayet states that Saul Alinsky’s book, “Rules for Radicals,” has been the Democrats’ handbook for their war on Republicans. Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) was recognized as a gifted organizer by people on all parts of the political spectrum. Alinsky was an agnostic, and dedicated his book to Lucifer, whom he saw as the first radical to rise up against the boss for those who had no control.

Sayet fails to mention that Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” was also the handbook for the Tea Party and still is the handbook for the Republican party.

When I try to acquire a rational understanding of right wing beliefs, I find I acquire cognitive dissonance.

There is an easy and obvious explanation for some people’s support of the current administration: their portfolios are growing. For people who are not wealthy, their beliefs seem based in fear of the other: the stupidest of the stupid, people they believe have no Christian values or convictions, foreigners, the other than white.

Now, I feel it is imperative that we find some common ground and begin to pull together rather than hating and dehumanizing one another, but how do you find common ground with people who base their own self-worth on the belief that you are not a human being?

When the fire, tornado, earthquake, or hurricane comes, for most people all prejudices go up in smoke. You want someone to rescue you and you don’t care who; or, you are committed to rescuing people, unconditionally.

A few people remain intransigent, but almost all people step up when the need arises. We find common ground.

It is a shame that it takes a crisis to do that. Some of us believe these hurricanes and fires are the vanguard of climate change. Will that ongoing crisis shake some sense into us? I hope and pray.

In case you are wondering if a wildfire can happen on Vashon – yes, it can. In 1893 a fire burned a large portion of what we now call the Island Center Forest.

*If you wish help California fire survivors, google “How to help California wildfire victims,” and “How to help animals California fires.” You will see options galore.