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Letter: Rugged individualism of conservatives, equality and compassion of liberals — all are needed in our national discourse
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Our nation is deeply divided. We will never convince most Dems to become Repubs or vice versa. We will never convince most conservatives to become liberal (in religion or politics), or vice versa.

But that’s a good thing! Because we need each other. Seriously. Here's why.

We need the liberal idealism that John Lennon imagined, MLK dreamed about, Buddha explained and Jesus exemplified — the oneness, the equality, the compassion and the mercy.

And we need the practical realism and "rugged individualism" that Ronald Reagan inspired, Clint Eastwood projected, William Buckley Jr. articulated and occasionally, perhaps even (I can’t believe I’m saying this) the egotistical bullying that Donald Trump entertains us with.

We need to challenge and balance each other. Listen, understand and compromise.

But to do that, we’ve got to stop labeling, categorizing, stereotyping, assuming and attacking. Give each other the benefit of the doubt and realize most of us want the same thing. We’re just blind people feeling a different part of the elephant. We’re not as different as we’re portrayed by politicians and the media. Outrageous statements and “gotcha” moments are entertaining. But when that becomes the status quo, we’re all in trouble.

One example. I lean liberal and tend to vote Democrat. But, like many Dems I know, I’m not pro abortion. I’ve just decided, for now, that universal health care, affordable education, decriminalization of marijuana, fewer prisons and fewer wars are more urgent than a fight over abortion, which is not going to be resolved any time soon. Telling me I have to choose between protecting babies in the womb and protecting them after their born is a false choice I refuse to make. I demand both. I’m pro-life from womb to tomb.

Telling me I have to be a pure capitalist or a pure socialist is another false choice. We’ve always been a hybrid of both. Medicare, Social Security, public schools and public safety institutions are socialistic principles. Free markets, private ownership of property and “rugged individualism” are capitalistic principles. Like most, I’m for all of the above. Politicians on either side who divide us with exaggerated and dishonest rhetoric are treasonous in my opinion.

Until we have a political party that represents the majority of us — rather than the extreme views of a few of us, we all have to choose the lesser of two evils. And if politicians won’t talk to each other and be honest about our common values and goals, then we must. It starts in our conversations over coffee or beer, on Facebook, at church and with our children and friends. Right or wrong, politicians are waiting on us.

Think about it.

Alan Shope

Gainesville

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