Saturday, July 29, 2017

At the Other End

For better or worse, many things in our lives are impacted by decisions other people make; it often requires a fight, or at least assertiveness, to advocate for yourself and for what's right.

When I find myself (not infrequently) doing that, I try to remember one simple but crucial fact: there is always a human being at the other end making the decision. 

Maybe it's a judge, an insurance agent, an airline representative, or a senator. But regardless, it's always just a person. A person who is nuanced and subject to all the vagaries of human decision-making.

This week, Alaskans and the rest of America saw this principle in action when Senator Lisa Murkowski refused to strip health care from millions of Americans for political expedience. 

It's impossible to know if all the pressure that her constituents applied over the past few months made a difference, but I like to think it did, and I expect others do as well. Certainly, it makes us all feel less impotent and hopeless at a time when the only thing Americans can seem to agree on is that our democracy isn't working properly.

It helps that Senator Murkowski is smart and compassionate. I don't always agree with her, and she is a canny politician above all else. But she respects her constituents and the fundamentals of governance. Sometimes--even often--this yields decisions I disagree with, but other times it ends up with a human being simply doing the right thing on the back end of a decision.

Alaska has a tiny population and by accident of Congressional design, an outsized influence over national issues at times. Many of us have met Senator Murkowski or even know "Lisa" personally. It is at these times that we can and should aggressively leverage our civic influence for the common good.

None of us can read Senator Murkowski's mind, and people are complicated. But there is no doubt that a combination of intellect and compassion--two critical qualities of good leadership--led to Senator Murkowski's decision on health care this week.

That we got to the point where millions of American lives hung in the balance for a one-percenter tax break is another and much darker problem. That democracy worked because people applied pressure when and where it mattered is a beacon of light and hope. 

In this particular case, people's lives were saved all over America because of many voices and three smart, compassionate decisions.

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