Tonawanda News

October 17, 2012

DUVALL: The art of compromising

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — When did

compromise become a dirty word?

Am I the only person who finds the following scenario quaint? Two groups disagree about something that requires a resolution of some sort. Rather than attempting to annihilate their opponent they sit down, talk through their differences and come to a reasonable compromise that gives both sides some of what they want.

In situation after situation, our society fails to do this. We’re seeing it constantly in our politics. We see it in the NHL lockout. We see it between neighbors played out at a local city council meeting.

This column has been written before Tuesday night’s debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. There’s one thing I can promise you: At some point the candidates will probably point out that they agree with each other. It will be an obvious and cynical ploy for the support of voters weary of all the negative advertising and constant attacks waged by both sides.

Granted, this is politics and candidates should disagree on issues. A robust discussion about the problems of the day — and we’re in no short supply of problems — is good for our democracy. But the way we contort policy positions into ad hominem attacks does a disservice to the system and to voters. I’m certain both men are good-natured personally. I’m certain some of their ideas have merit and would benefit the country. 

Those won’t be the issues you hear about in the debate. 

Similarly, the NHL owners have locked out their players for the third time in the 20 years or so that I’ve been an avid fan of the sport. Once it wiped out an entire season. Another time we lost half the games. 

There’s some progress in negotiations, but everyone knows what issues are involved. Why did it take so many months before the league made a serious offer to resolve its financial problems with the players’ union?

That news came down Tuesday, as well. I was encouraged that the owners have reached a more reasonable offer of an even split of league revenue with players. There are other issues left to sort through and who knows how the players will respond. 

The two sides are talking, which is good. But why did they waste months posturing and trying to get the upper hand in a PR war? With billions at stake does anyone really think fans’ opinions are going to make a difference? Of course not. It was a vanity exercise and an insult to people who passionately care about the game.

Then there are the local disputes — the not-in-my-backyard types who bicker about the closing time of a basketball court, their neighbor’s too-long grass, barking dogs and the like.

No doubt these things are a nuisance but I’ve never understood someone who shows up to a council meeting asking someone to make a law so they’re not annoyed. No amount of laws will ever stop the occasional irritation. It’s the price we pay for all of the joy that living in a nice neighborhood can provide.

That’s really what I’m talking about. When the focus is always on our differences we lose sight of what we have in common.

As the old saying goes, there’s far more that unites us than divides us. We’d all be better served to remember that maxim once in a while.

Eric DuVall is the managing editor of the Tonawanda News. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Contact him at eric.duvall@tonawanda-news.com.