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Why So Much Dissension?

by on April 26, 2015 6:00 AM

Reading the newspapers, watching the cable news channels, listening to the radio commentators and following the announcements about everything from the Iranian nuclear negotiations to the fine tuning of religious freedom versus discrimination, I can honestly say I saw this all coming.

I don't mean the issues themselves, but the context in which these issues thrive; that of an either-or world.

Either I thrive or you thrive, but not both of us together.

If I get richer, you must get poorer. If I win, you lose.

The conversations of the day are largely couched in terms of limited "either-or" choices. Either radical Islam wins or the decadent Western point of view wins. Either Putin's vision of Russia wins in the Ukraine or the European notion prevails. Either the religious Right is appeased or the Human Rights Campaign lobby wins. Everything is presented as a win-or-lose proposition.

This shift in the context of modern discussion and debate started some time ago when we became more interested in how we are dividing the economic pie as opposed to how we might simply bake a bigger pie for everyone. Any commentator worth his or her salt knows that the economy has had an anemic recovery for the past eight years.

The orientation from Washington helped to change the context of economic conversations from inclusion and empowerment to exclusion and divisiveness. The conversations have gone as far as personal character assassination as opposed to civil discussions about differences and potential resolutions.

Just listen to the rhetoric from all sides of every issue. Indiana passes a religious freedom law modeled on the federal law and is lambasted -- even by Steve Cook, CEO of Apple. We are emotionally positioned and equally blind all at the same time. It is of course a sad state of affairs.

Much of what passes for leadership these days is ideological in nature and lacks the full understanding the real issues. The true role of leadership should be to set the proper context of the national conversation and then find a solution acceptable to all.

Is there another context for the national conversation other than the "either-or" ultimatum?

Certainly there is. It begins with realizing how good we really have it. It begins with gratitude. It begins with setting policies that grow the economy for everyone. It begins with everyone having a way to contribute to others and to the larger community of which we are all a part.

As we head into the next presidential election cycle, I am looking for a political leader who espouses a change in the national and world conversations from the "either-or" tone that fuels the fires of dissent to the inclusive, focused, empowering notions that trust the American people to rise to the occasion and make this world an even better place in which to live and raise our kids.

I am looking for a world in which I can be sure kids will have an even better life than their parents.

I am looking for a world that moves toward active empowerment and enlightenment.


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Dan Nestlerode was previously the Director of Research and Portfolio Management at Nestlerode & Loy Investment Advisors in State College. He retired in 2015 after 50 years in the investment business. A graduate of Penn State University, Nestlerode became an investment advisor in 1965. He can be reached at [email protected]
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