America’s court system has several purposes but, in general, they all amount to resolving controversies. Citizens need some place to help them settle their differences with other citizens so everyone can get on with their lives. And one of the most important thing judges can do to start the resolution of a court case is to encourage the competing parties to find common ground. If the competing parties recognize they have similar needs and if all parties can at least consider the possibility that an outcome that benefits their adversary may also benefit themselves, a path leading to a reasonable compromise may appear.
Our country has often struggled with competing strongly held beliefs even going so far as resulting in the Civil War. But short of actual armed conflict we have suffered through numerous periods where political issues at first appeared to be intractable but were assuaged by the parties finding common ground. Our current public debate over such issues as immigration or war with Iran or several other significant matters may feel as if the only solutions are pistols at ten paces. However, when Americans are reminded we have more and better reasons to agree than disagree, we can begin to accommodate, and even celebrate, our differences. Such is the beauty of our national birthday party. Perhaps we should consider having similar periods of healing every month.
Peg and I participated in one such Fourth of July celebration in New Harmony, Indiana last week. Because New Harmony is a small town we personally knew where many of the people attending and involved in the party stand on volatile issues such as immigration, global warming, military involvement, the Me Too Movement, Black Lives Matter and, especially, partisan politics. Many of our friends and family are well informed and passionate on these and other matters. Conversations have often seemed more like a contact sport than reasoned debate.
But for several hours on the Fourth of July we all found common ground in the Declaration of Independence, songs of praise and a First Amendment type respect for our hard won honorable common heritage. In our culture we have numerous monthly events that each of us enjoys and respect such as club and association gatherings, sporting events, birthdays and anniversaries. Maybe we should set aside some time every month to renew our common faith in America.