Fight for Peace?

I don't remember when the oxymoronic nature of that phrase struck me, but it did, independently and quite some time ago.

The politics on both sides of the aisle are peppered with fight metaphors. Folks in or vying for public office promise to "fight" for this, that, or the other thing. I know they mean well. But I want them to stop fighting.

"I'm a worker, not a fighter." That's what I want to hear.

A fight requires adversaries. It's us agin them. What we want is right. What they want is wrong. It makes a battlefield out of public discourse and decision making. Currently legislative floors across the country are pooled with the blood of good ideas. Some bad ideas, too. No one's war is being won, but sides have been chosen and the fight goes on.

As citizens, as voters, I think we are too attracted to the battlefield. The glimpses we are occasionally vouchsafed of the actual work of legislation, of the "crushing ordinariness of governing", put us off. I'm as guilty as anyone in this.

I know that more people will gather to watch a fight than will gather to watch people at work. Listen to the difference in your head. "I am going to Washington to fight for you." Your imagination supplies fervor, excitement, commitment, hope. "I am going to Washington to work for you." The imagination hears a quiet statement. No less committed, I think, but lacking a certainty that the goal will inevitably be accomplished. That the battle will be won. Only a determination to work toward hope.

I don't expect the fight references to disappear. The battle metaphor is too embedded in human cultures around the world. It may be somewhere in the genome itself.

I will not forswear anyone running for office who promises to fight for me. But I'd much prefer someone who will work for me. Rhetoric is easy. Meetings are hard.