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Straight from the Mike…The Fallacy of Common Ground


We have to face certain tough admissions at times. There is indeed one, I call, a disappointing truism. The one I am referencing is the realization that common ground, too often in today’s climate, is a bridge too far.

One needs to look no further than the current political morass that has inhaled so much of the oxygen of reason from the room. If you need a historical perspective, let’s look at racial and human relations. In the case of racial discrimination, the unevenness of the field in our society is quite evident. The primary tenant of common ground is a level ground, to begin with. 

The references we see related to the common ground are expressed in several ways, “Seeing eye to eye”, “We have a deal”, etc. This usually indicates that an elevation has taken place by one side, one partner, or one team involved in the discourse or discussion. However, as long as one side perceives it has the higher ground, the upper hand, or similar advantage, progress is not likely; success is just not in the cards.

A number of examples come to mind, economic and community development, quality education, and school choice, for a start. It has long been my contention that the reason one area, a community or side of a county does not have parity with another is the perception of uneven status. 

You often hear the undertone reference, ‘those people’. You will often find that we do not even have a seat at the table. This concept is what author Howard Thurman referred to in his book, “Jesus and the Disinherited”. He called it the Community of the Wall. “Instead of relations between the weak and the strong there is merely a relationship between human beings. A man is a man, no more, no less. The awareness of this fact marks the supreme moment of human dignity.’

As we came together to honor and remember the exceptional contributions of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and soon to be followed by Black History Month, let us remember that progress, and yes, common ground can only be attained if one side would come down off of that ladder and if the other party allows its reach to exceed its grasp. This should result in reaching that area called common ground. We can begin to move toward success and agreement.

Even in the Art of War by Sun Tzu, “all armies prefer high ground to low and sunny places to dark. Low ground is not only damp and unhealthy but also disadvantageous for fighting.”

For me, I remain the eternal optimist. I believe in the better side of the angels. Today, we are charged with fostering a sustainable, viable, and productive future. Despite these noble objectives, we are, too often, unable to seriously address the systemic differences that will change the imbalance so prevalent in our community. 

Unless and until, we come to the table as equal stakeholders, support and invest in committed, selfless leaders who have done their homework, felt the pulse of the community, and share their plans on the canvas of change, we will likely continue to see little or no progress. 

I have long contended that real change does not occur until we become dissatisfied with the status quo. It seems to me we are at, in some cases; past the point of benign tolerance on such key issues as choice education, affordable housing, homelessness, and sustainability.

Our nation has been truly blessed with leaders who saw what was necessary to move the needle in a positive direction. They took the necessary action, at great personal risk, I might add, to draw the line. A. Philip Randolph comes to mind. He founded the Pullman Car Porters of America. He stated, “At the banquet table of life, there are no reserve seats. You take what you can hold and hold what you can keep. You can not hold anything, you can not keep anything without an organization.” His bust stands today in the waiting area of Union Station in Washington, DC. It should give us pause and inspiration for the times ahead.

Although their track record on the field is in search of improvement, there is much we can take from the battle cry of the Atlanta Falcons, Rise Up!


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