Mandan News

Finding a common ground for discussion

Observations of a News Editor
By Dustin White

Recently, as we all know, the president visited our state. For some, this was a great occasion. To have a sitting president visit our state, for many, was an honor. But as we all know, there are few things that all agree on.

This visit was no exception. Nearly as soon as the trip was announced, there were individuals who were berating the president and his trip. Some would have loved to see him stay clear. Others were upset that he would visit a reservation, instead of a place they deemed more deserving.

Regardless of what people were saying, the president still came, made a great impact on many individuals, and left. Even with his departure though, the comments didn’t end. It seemed as if his visit kicked off another round of discussions on a variety of social network sites; not like such discussion ever really ends.

The discussion is quite disappointing though. Whether one likes the president or not, I think there should be a level of respect for him. He definitely has made mistakes, and is far from perfect, but that is part of being human. Becoming president doesn’t suddenly change that. Instead, it opens one up to public scrutiny, and you can bet that any short comings will be highlighted and torn a part.

However, none of this is unique to our current president. Every president has suffered from the same problem: being human. So it is only natural that they will have faults. The problem though comes when those faults are grossly exaggerated, and the individual is demonized.

This is exactly what was seen with the president’s recent trip. It was easy to find individuals claiming that the president has done absolutely nothing good while in office, or that he was the worst in our history. Then there were the more conspiratorial comments, such as he was a Muslim terrorist, that he liked killing people, or he was in league with a secretive group that was trying to reduce the world’s population.

Now, obviously, the first couple of statements are opinion oriented, and people have the right to think as they may. However, I do think that opinions should be better informed. Or at least shouldn’t be made with such wide brush strokes. More importantly though, I think if someone is willing to voice their opinions on public forums, they should be willing to support them, and take some criticism as well.

That was not something seen in regards to the president’s visit. There were definitely individuals who were willing to make negative statements, but more often than not, they were not willing to offer any support, and certainly were not open to criticism. Which is quite sad, as a true discussion can not be had with one side only being willing to shout their views, and ignore everything else.

Such tactics only lead to division, as well as the spread of misinformation and/or hatred. Having an open conversation can lead to a much better understanding. For instance, if we take the idea about our current president being awful, it shouldn’t be any surprise that he isn’t the first one to be described as such.

The same polemic used against our current president is nothing really new. Every president has been beaten down by some group, and that probably will never change. Even when we consider a president who remains the only individual to be elected unanimously (yet with a different voting procedure), one who was widely popular and did not subscribe to party lines, there were still those individuals who saw him as vile.

Washington got off quite easy in the long run, but vicious attacks would not be far off. After Washington served his terms, it wasn’t long before opposing parties were paying newspaper reporters to print awful things about their opponents. Mudslinging has been an engrained part of American society.

So why do we continue to put up with it? If presidents are consistently being demonized, and labeled as no good, why do people continue to buy it? Certainly, not every single president can hold the title of being the worst, or having done nothing for their country. After all, the country continues to operate, even though each president has supposedly done nothing.

The problem is a bit deeper than personal biases though. Much of the negativity could be abandon if individuals were more historically inclined, but there is also a lack of understanding of the political system. It is nice and easy to think of each president as being a lone figure, shaping their own destiny, but that isn’t really what happens.

Our president can only work with what they are given. That’s not to blame the previous president on the situation we are today, but to acknowledge that history plays a very important aspect. Many of the problems we see today stem from occurrences decades in the past. Each president simply inherits the good and the bad of previous ones, who inherited it from previous ones, and so on.

The president also doesn’t have supreme power. They work within the confines of a system of checks and balances. With few exceptions, they have to rely on many others to get things moving. Which is great for them when everything works out positively, as they get the praise. But when it all goes south, they get left with the blame. It’s a position I would never want to be in.

I think a better understanding of these issues can go a long way in opening a better line of discourse. Obviously, not everyone will end up agreeing. But that is okay. Not everyone should agree, as differing views help us move forward. It allows us to see a variety of perspectives, and work with them in order to possibly discover a better outcome.

At the same time though, when either side is completely closed off to any opposition, and differing views, there is no possible progress. Biases and prejudices cloud any possible understanding, and the final outcome is division. A division that only leads to tensions that slows, or even negates, any possible progress.