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Taking turns

When two kids disagree about how things ought to be, adults try to step in and figure out a compromise. When they can’t come up with a plan both kids agree to, one timeless strategy is to have the children take turns.

It isn’t entirely satisfying to either kid, because each has to suffer through the other doing things his or her own way for a while — the wrong way, as that kid sees it. But then each child also gets to do it the “right” way, hopefully proving to the world how superior that way is.

Our system of government kind of works like that, too, like it or not. Different parties have different approaches on how to govern the community — on what works best. We hold elections, and even when one side wins by only a super-slim majority, that side gets a turn to try its approach.

The kid waiting for his or her turn wants to holler every time the other does something wrong, but if all they do is fight, both kids will miss out on playing the game — or solving the community’s problems — and that, not fighting, is why they’re here. If you bite your lip and wait your turn through your expected objections, the other side might listen when you speak up against things going way too far. Maybe you might even learn something from the other kid. Sure, his or her way isn’t as good as yours, but it may include a few decent things you had forgotten about. Maybe you can incorporate some of those when it’s your turn, to make your way better than ever.

Winning and righteousness tend to prevail in today’s politics. Taking turns isn’t so popular, but nevertheless it is built into our government framework. The alternative is to fight each other and not get much done for a community that is divided on many things but still, on the whole, in this together.

Kids sometimes are able to take turns effectively, and sometimes not. Same goes for adults. It’s not a perfect method of resolving conflict, but it can help us live with each other if we give it a chance.

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