David Trinko: Just lunch, bringing us closer together

First Posted: 2/4/2015

Perhaps the first step toward restoring civilization is restoring civility.

That seemed to be the hope of U.S. senators in Washington on Wednesday. They did something that hasn’t been done in ages: They ate lunch together.

The only rule on where you sat is there had to be someone from the other party sitting next to you. Republicans couldn’t gather in a group, nor could Democrats gather among their own. No, the goal was to be civil and get to know each other.

Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, brought the ham. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, brought lobster. They all brought an open mind, hoping to end some of the demonization that happens when the two parties view one another as enemies instead of partners in the public’s good.

“I’m hoping we have less grist for your mill and that we have less partisan fights and more times that we can figure out ways that we can agree on things,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, told the Associated Press.

It sounds like a warm and fuzzy idea that couldn’t work. It might just be the way to solve the world’s problems.

In a Gallup poll in June, only 7 percent of Americans said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress. That’s the lowest since … well, ever. They’ve been asking people that question since May 1973. Meanwhile, 50 percent said they had very little confidence in Congress, the highest ever.

You can’t help but think of all the negativity can only helped if our representatives got to know each other. It always helps to understand the motives of someone with whom you disagree.

Lima’s been a fine example of that. The Public Officials Dialogue has been going on since April 2003, a time with a fair amount of distrust and animosity between different groups of elected officials in Allen County. Since then, these social gatherings have seen more than 180 officials and a total attendance above 1,500, according to its organizers.

More of all, we’re seeing less animosity between city, township and county officials in Allen County. Who knew one meal could be so effective?

We could all benefit from using this brand of camaraderie. How often do we get in a large group of people and hang out with our own? Humans seem to be pack animals, preferring to stick with those we know. All that ever does is confirm your own view of the world, never showing you outside perspectives.

We all like to be comfortable, but maybe forcing some discomfort can help us see another point of view.

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