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Compromise (06/10/2012)
By Frances Edstrom

Recently, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Club in downtown Winona wanted to make a change in the exterior of their building. In order to do so, they had to present the plan to the City of Winona’s Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) for review.

The HPC nixed the idea, puzzling people around town and perplexing the VFW. But when the HPC’s position was explained, it made sense. The exterior of the VFW Club is faced with red brick. There is a center double door, and symmetrically placed in the walls to either side of the front door are windows filled with glass brick. It’s a nice, tidy, visually pleasing effect.

The VFW members wanted to replace one window with plain glass, so that people passing by the club would see that there was action inside, and might be tempted to come in for a look. The club includes a bar room, a pool room, a foyer, and a meeting and event room. With the glass brick in place, the club always looked, well, empty. Not good for business.

But the HPC said that replacing only one window would spoil the exterior symmetry of the building, and they didn’t want to approve removing the glass brick. The VFW asked if the HPC would be happy if the club replaced both windows with plain glass. HPC members said, Sure! A compromise was struck, and everybody went away happy, even though they didn’t get what they first wanted.

This is a great example of how people wish government always worked. Both parties should be congratulated for being willing to work together for the good of both. Presumably the people of Winona will have a pleasing view on East Third Street, and the VFW will have more patrons. Win-win, right? Well, except that the VFW’s investment in the building windows has doubled, hopefully to be made up in increased sales.

This is how people expect things to work in Washington, D.C. But they don’t, and people get frustrated, and call what happens in Washington “gridlock.” If you think about it, though, life rarely works the way the HPC and VFW agreement did. If that was the norm, no one would be divorced. Families wouldn’t become estranged. There would be no need for weapons of any sort, there wouldn’t be a Super Bowl, and we’d live in the Garden of Eden…with no snakes.

I was once involved in a legal mediation session, where the negotiator told us, “All arguments boil down to be about money.” This is what people like to think—that the country is only ever in a war with another country over money—oil fields, mineral mines, that sort of thing. We like to think that if we offer someone enough money, that person will bend to our will, go away, and be happy.

I take exception. Perhaps I am naive, but I still think there are principles that guide our beliefs and lives. I think that the argument over abortion is nothing but about principles—on both sides. I think this country was founded on principles—freedom from tyranny, freedom of religion, freedom of the people to form a militia, freedom to speak out against what you don’t like about government—although there was certainly enough money to fight about, too.

Not every fight between Democrats and Republicans is about money or the lack thereof. That’s why it isn’t so easy for them to agree. Ask yourself this. Would you want it to be the party that represents your dearly held principles that caves in? I’d be willing to bet your answer is no 




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