Show some class

When did Americans lose their ability to put themselves in others’ shoes? When did every single political argument become a fight to the death, any compromise a half-defeat? When did American politicians decide that it is not possible to sink too low in pursuit of agendas that nobody even understands anymore?

Sen. John McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, recently made the announcement that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. The agendized commentators—both left and right—started making hay while the sun was shining. And yet, many of us wonder at this squeamish feeling in the pits of our stomachs: How can it be ethical that this personal difficulty benefits anyone politically?

Can any one of us say that our family has never been touched by an out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy? That her daughter did not live up to the governor’s standards isn’t proof of some hypocrisy on her part, nor is it proof that her personal policies or beliefs are worthless. Because if it’s true for her, then it’s true that all our personal beliefs are bankrupt because every family in our country has likely been affected by out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy.

It’s not hard to find people taking gleeful note of the impact of Hurricane Gustav on the Republican National Convention. “Every bit of that party’s loss is our gain,” say the partisan Democrats—the ones who fail to recognize that 2 million citizens were displaced from the Gulf Coast by Gustav, that our actual, human brothers and sisters, moms and dads, had their lives uprooted again by the threat of nature’s fury.

Look, it’s not enough for the Democrats to win. It’s not enough for the Republicans to win. What this country needs is for the better person, the better policies, the better future for our country to win this election. Somebody’s got to deserve to win the election. They shouldn’t win because of some natural stroke of bad luck or some “gotcha” human frailty.

There is a middle ground in this country. As one presidential contender recently said, “We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. … don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. … surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital. … This too is part of America’s promise—the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.”

If the United States wanted to get teen pregnancy under control in this country, we could do it. It would require the full spectrum of thought on the matter to be considered to find the best solution to discourage teen pregnancy. If America wanted to get drug abuse under control in this country, policies would have to change to reflect the scientific consensus on how to control drug abuse.

If the United States wanted to become the greatest country in the world again, with liberties beyond those of other democracies, with a standard of living beyond that of other democracies, with a better educated, more healthful population, we could do it.

All it would require is for each of us to stand in others’ shoes, to work at finding solutions in areas where we can compromise instead of continually fighting the arguments where there can never be an acceptable middle ground.