Taking some things ‘off the battlefield’

I am not afraid of controversy.


But I will admit to being tired of having to contest EVERYTHING.

It seems like we should be able to agree that some things are, if not sacred, at least accepted, so that we can sort of collectively move on.


I mean, the issue of whether and how to fund legal services for those in poverty is highly contested, even when that results in a complete breakdown of our legal system. One of my students created a policy brief last semester about Missouri’s practice of requiring attorneys to serve as pro bono lawyers in family court, and how all sides acknowledge that this ‘compromise’ is a mess: unprepared attorneys, unrepresented families, unhappy judges.

And there’s of course tremendous disagreement about the value of early childhood education, even though an approach like Head Start was, when it was created, understood as a political compromise, bridging liberal emphasis on helping the poor with more conservative preferences for investing in human capital, instead of direct transfers.

But not now.

I recognize that this whole lament risks me sounding like a hopeless romantic, wistfully wishing for more ‘civil’ debate.

But that’s not really what I mean.

What I mean, and what I hope, is some concession on established fact–specifically, on delivered outcomes–and some common understanding about what our aims should be.

I want to draw some parameters around what is up for negotiation, and what should not, especially where there are decades of accumulated evidence and/or broad consensus on the unworkability of the status quo.

I want a sort of ceasefire, not across the board, but on at least some things, so that, respectively, we can dedicate our political and, more importantly, analytical ‘ammunition’ to those remaining contests.

What are you tired of debating? What do you want to see ‘come off the battlefield’? Where do you think there really is more agreement, perhaps, than we’re willing to concede?

2 responses to “Taking some things ‘off the battlefield’

  1. lets start with the low hanging fruit: Womens health and self determination. for example, I’m anti-abortion but pro-choice. The armistice has to be somewhere in the middle – smarter than bumper sticker rhetoric.

    Next, fire arms: I own firearms and paid part of my way through college as manager of the gun department for a large chain store. Hunting was my “gateway drug” into my appreciation and respect for nature. I’m not anti-gun. But I’ve also worked for over 25 years in trauma centers and emergency rooms. I could not begin to recount the numbers of famlies I’ve worked with in the immediate aftermath of shootings. (I’m talking 100s.)Some fatal some not. Many were children. Most were accidents, some were “impulsive mistakes,” the smallest number were victims of random crime. I don’t believe the founding fathers, even in the most fanciful science fiction movie, would have linked their 2nd ammendment to the modern “gun culture. ” Semi-automatic rifles and pistols, extended capacity magazines, concealed carry, or even open carry of martial weaponry, all in the course of our daily civil discourse.(One could argue these items are already “off the battlefield.” But that would distract from you very valid proposal. Other ideas?)

    • Great points, Gary! I have been thinking about this in terms of civil rights, too, lately, and feeling like we are rehashing some of the same arguments there, like around voting rights. I want to hope that we are building capacity through these fights, but some days it just feels like retracing our steps! Thanks for your comments.

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