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Political polarization: It's time for us all to say enough is enough

Why do some people seem to think that the best way to defend their viewpoint is to ridicule someone else's opinion?

What happened to respect, agreeing to disagree and taking the time to really listen to what someone else has to say about a controversial topic?

These are vital questions that can either set the course for a meaningful debate or doom a discussion down the tubes.

This "polarization" of opinions is impeding progress on a wide range of issues from healthcare and energy policy to national security safeguards and education reform.

And it's just not at the national level. The "my-way-or-the-highway" thinkers -- let's call them MWOTHs - are also wrecking discussion at the state and local levels. All one has to do is take a scroll through some of the online comments posted on the newspaper's website. A few posters are so convinced they're right they'll dismiss or belittle counterpoints based solely on who they perceive is making them.

Politics, of course, is at the heart of all of it. Neither side wants to give the other side credit. In fact, some would rather see the other side's idea s fail than succeed, using it as ammunition to shoot down future suggestions.

Lee Hamilton, director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University who was also a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years, sent out an e-mail this week, entitled "Say 'enough's enough' to polarization."

The shortened version of the piece is just 192 words but it speaks volumes. We're reprinting it below in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, it will get a few MWOTHs to reconsider their approach. Here it is:

In recent appearances, President Obama has suggested that it's time for Washington to confront the intense polarization and incivility that mark our politics these days. This is an important gesture, but partisanship is deeply rooted in the body politic now.

Even if the entire leadership at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were suddenly to embrace one another in honest fellowship, polarization will not disappear quickly.

That is because much of our political culture now works to drive people apart, not bring them together. Everything from the way congressional districts are drawn to the increasingly ideological nature of the two political parties today favors division and not the pragmatism that a majority of Americans long for.

The only solution I see is for ordinary Americans to stand up and say "Enough's enough!" The president and other political leaders can certainly try to change the tone in Washington, but they have an uphill battle unless Americans make it clear that they are so tired of polarization, they'll set their own ideological prejudices aside to support politicians who know how to work with people who don't agree with them.

-- Alexandria Echo Press