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Living with each other

This is a different kind of editorial. Rather than address a specific issue or occurrence, today we feel the need to state an underlying philosophy. It’s meant to cover a lot of ground. Feel free to apply it to anything from national politics to interpersonal quibbles.

If there is one refrain we want the Enterprise to keep emphasizing, it is this: We have to live with each other.

The “how” of that is complicated. Government is a big part of how we manage to live with each other, and of course not everyone agrees on how it should work. There was a time when that didn’t matter so much because government was led by kings, queens or chiefs who gained their power by birth or conquest, but now people of the world largely elect their government leaders. That’s great, but it leaves us plenty of opportunity to debate how it should all work.

This discussion is healthy so long as it doesn’t defeat its purpose — wherein we cannot live with each other because we are arguing too much about how to do so.

The how, important as it is, is not always as important as the what — the goal of relatively peaceful coexistence.

It is also not always as important as the who. If the leaders we choose and the people they hire really care about the public, if they listen to a wide spectrum of people with open ears and minds, if they focus on service rather than self-service, if they are humble rather than egotistical, then their political ideology doesn’t matter so much. Good, caring people are more likely to lead us to peace and prosperity than crooked people, even if they choose a different path than some of us would.

It takes all kinds of people to make the world go ’round. Even if we think some of them are wrong in some views, they are our neighbors, our family, and we are better off respecting them. Trying to defeat them, to “win” the country for our side, won’t work out very well. Crushing our neighbors is no real victory. When we commit to that kind of combat, we sacrifice our scruples, our morals and our principles under the mantra of “This is war.” We become willing to lie, cheat and hurt. That is wrong, immoral, sinful — whichever word you prefer.

Sure, there are some people we will always clash with, and in those cases maybe it’s best just to keep our distance — although we should be ready to be on our best behavior when we can’t avoid them. Things are never going to be perfect. We are called to do the best with what we have, where we are.

Living together is everyone’s job. It requires being on the lookout for public danger and, when disaster threatens, trying to help protect and aid others, especially the most vulnerable. It requires atoning for past wrongs, while still loving everyone as much as we love ourselves. It requires penance and forgiveness, justice and mercy.

We won’t all agree, but if we care about those with whom we disagree and try hard enough to make it work, we can usually form a majority consensus around common sense and human dignity — and thus do as well as possible in this imperfect world.

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