Back in 1992, when all we had to worry about was our marriages, a writer and counselor named John Gray published a pop psychology best-seller entitled Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Little did John Gray know that by 2016 Mars and Venus would have divided our country into warring political camps that are tearing our republic apart.
If you want to witness the War of the Worlds in action, visit our Oregon legislature in Salem during the current session, which starts on February 1st. Walk into the House of Representative chamber and look down from the balcony. On the left side of the room, you will see 35 Democrats. Most of them are women. Some are drawn from our state’s ethnic minority communities. One is Oregon’s first immigrant legislator. The very capable speaker of the House celebrated her marriage to a same-sex partner in January.
On the other side of the aisle (yes, there really is an aisle) sit 25 Republicans. You will have no trouble figuring out who belongs to which party, even when they are not sitting in their segregated sections. If it’s a white guy wearing a suit and tie, most likely he’s carrying a GOP card.
You will have no difficulty sorting out the legislative priorities of these two tribes. If a proposal is about inclusion, social justice, protecting the environment or any of that so-called PC stuff (when did ‘correct’ become a bad thing?), it comes from someone designated with a D. If it’s about more logging, mining, grazing, fossil fuel or firearms, brand it with an R.
Unfortunately, neither tribe can win the current political Armageddon. The non-partisan forces of climate change are bearing down on us like a gigantic hurricane. If we keep fighting each other and fail to prepare for the onslaught of drought, flood, fire, superstorms and rising sea levels, we will all be destroyed. (On Mars, this statement will be received as hyperbole but for those of us who are tracking CO2 levels and global temperatures, it’s factual.)
One of the problems is that Venus and Mars do not speak the same language. Terms like fascism, liberalism, political correctness and science denial have different meanings on these two planets. We even have different definitions of ‘majority rules’ and ‘one man [or woman], one vote.’
If we are ever going communicate between our cultures, we need a Rosetta Stone to translate ideas and proposals. I believe the key to mutual understanding is economics. We can all agree on the meaning of words like investment, jobs, development and infrastructure. Let’s talk about economic initiatives that will both employ residents of Oregon’s 25 rural counties, mitigate climate change and benefit all communities. For example, we could create a statewide Tennessee Valley Authority that would invest in energy production, storage and advanced grid technology, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and employ Oregonians for generations to come.
Does that sound ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative?’ How about ‘smart?’