My garden used to be my mother’s garden. As I was working in it recently, it occurred to me that I had made great changes to it, changes that would probably not have pleased her. For example, she never considered whether a plant needed sun or shade, planting wherever she wanted. I do consider these things and have transplanted many of her prized specimens to locations better suited to them. For example, her peonies have been moved from the shady side of the house into full sun, where they are now thriving. Similarly, her rhododendrons are now enveloped by high shade, growing full and lush.
Our democracy is a lot like the garden my mother and I shared and often disagreed about. Each region of the country, political party and citizen believes they know the best way to cultivate the garden of the State. They know where the peonies and rhododendrons will do better, and they know how to get them into those better places. Both sides of the political aisle love the great garden of our government. They want to nurture it, and believe that, if they can implement their plans, it will do better.
What they often forget is that there are rules in the garden, no matter who works in it. It is impossible to rip something out by the roots, leaving them to dry out in the hot sun and then expect that it can be stuck back in the ground to grow and flourish once more. The rules require a certain amount of consistency and caring in how things are done. When those processes are not followed, there is no growth. No matter who does the gardening, the careful treatment of delicate roots, provision of the right amount of sun and water and constant checks to ensure that there are no weeds, are all requirements not be to be ignored if the garden is to prosper.
It’s also impossible to ignore the rules for the benefit of one side or the other. The flagrant aberration of time-honored procedures designed to ostracize the opposing view, and the lack of transparency on the part of those who hold the majority is never right. No matter who holds the power.
Perhaps if my mother and I could have realized that we both loved the garden, maybe we could have worked together better. She could have shared her depth of knowledge about what to do when the tomato plant leaves begin to wither and I could have shown her how to Google whether a certain plant would do better in sun or shade. Our garden would have been gorgeous, something to which we both contributed and of which we could both be proud. It would have been easy because, down deep, we both agreed that no matter how we felt, the rules of the garden never changed.
Sound like an idea that just might work in our government, too?