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For those of you who have been out of town it rained here last week. Since lake life in the rain is best spent indoors we spent most of last week looking out the window wondering when it would stop. Turns out the rain started on Saturday and ended on Thursday. After checking the neighborhood rain gauges we found that 4.6 inches of rain fell which means that our gauges were filled to the point where they almost overflowed - an impressive amount of moisture. So much for the weather; onto other things.

It seems to me that America’s current state of affairs has exhausted us. I’ve been rather amazed at how many people have told me that they’re disgusted and doing their best to ignore the political blizzard we’re swamped with. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re on the left or right of any given issue, the rest of us are doing our best to avoid engaging in any type of political conversation.

Like everyone else, there have been occasions when I try to avoid engaging but being a political junkie makes it rather difficult to ignore what’s going on. It seems that we the people are being held in the middle of a circular firing squad where issues are machine gunning us to the point that we can’t keep track anymore. So the easiest solution is to step out of the circle and pray that some sort of sanity will prevail.

Both my loyal readers will likely attest that I’ve been beating this dead horse for quite a while but I can’t help saying it again: our discourse has become so uncivil that not many of us dare tread into discourse with someone who disagrees with us.

This is not a healthy environment because it gridlocks most of the major issues our country needs to address. It’s been my experience that whenever we adopt the notion that "it’s my way or the highway," meaningful solutions are impossible to find. The problem with this approach is that one side can’t afford to let the other side win anything - and that’s the political environment we’re in now.

My years in politics, counseling troubled families, teaching college, etc. taught me that the best laws, rules and solutions involved making sure that all sides were at least understood and considered before acting. Therefore I’ve concluded that listening is much more important than talking. Like God said, "I’ve given you two ears and one mouth, would you like to guess which one you should use more?" Okay, maybe He didn’t say that but someone did.

Anyway it seems to me that rather than understanding what others think, our present discourse focuses more on trying to hammer our opinion into those who disagree rather than leaving room for those who differ. Granted its tough to listen to someone who doesn’t reciprocate but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.

Listening doesn’t mean that you can change another’s view of the world, but if more of us did it the likelihood of resolving our differences increases exponentially. Yes, this sounds naïve but if it’s usually the simple things that lead to solutions. So rather than tuning out I suggest we listen to those who differ in hopes that they will reciprocate and meaningful solutions will result. It may be exhausting but it’s more civil than what we are presently experiencing.

And of course everything I said here may be wrong. So here’s hoping that whatever you do leaves us better off than we are now.

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Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.

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