I heard something disturbing yesterday on a radio talk show. In an interview, I heard Representative Paul Ryan (R - WI) say something that bothers me a great deal, and that I believe is illustrative of, and contributes to, many of the problems we have in government.
One of the closing remarks Rep. Ryan made was with regard to a question about how much he has talked with President Obama over the past couple years. Rep. Ryan responded that he is a policy-maker, and is not interested in personal relationships.
Here's the thing. If people don't know each other, if we haven't spent time together socially, then we're much more able to demonize each other. If, however, we are interested in personal relationships, it's much more difficult to yell nasty things at each other. If we have had the opportunity to see that the person with whom we disagree is actually a real person (and not simply a set of bad ideas), we will treat them more civilly, and will be able to have an actual conversation instead of a shouting match.
Right now, in our government (and on the internet ... but that's a whole different issue), there are a lot of shouting matches. If Rep. Ryan was willing to have dinner with President Obama (and vice-versa), maybe they'd figure out that each of them wants what's best for the country. Maybe they'd figure out a way to actually talk with each other, to work together, and to actually get something productive done in Washington. Maybe better personal relationships would increase the likelihood that productive policy-making could happen.
Of course this issue isn't restricted to those two individuals ~ we're all guilty of the same thing.