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Matt Knutson: It’s time to pick up all the pieces together

Matt Knutson is a communications specialist in Rochester.

“She’s showing signs of actually being helpful,” I exclaimed to my wife as I witnessed our daughter putting away the tissue paper she had strewn about the living room floor. I hadn’t anticipated picking up the paper would be part of her game, yet there she was, diligently grabbing piece by piece and putting it back into the gift bag that once held one of her birthday presents. There’s something exciting when the littlest one in the household begins attempting to contribute to the chores around the house, and though we’re still years away from taking out the trash and mowing the yard, it was still a moment worth celebrating.

Apparently Gracelyn’s daycare has spent some time encouraging this behavior in addition to my wife’s attempts, and it is finally paying off. Perhaps one day our house won’t have toys scattered in remote corners and books will be back on the shelves. I can dream, right? I like to interpret Gracelyn’s new propensity to clean up as an attempt of altruism —  a commitment to making the world a better place. Maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Sera and I often go to bed knowing we didn’t get everything accomplished we had hoped to achieve. Whether it be something as little as hanging up laundry or as big as solving homelessness, there’s always more to do. I think that’s why I’m so excited to see Gracelyn growing up. Our daughter and her peers are the future, and if they’re tidy, we’re on the path toward a nice retirement. Perhaps they will be able to solve the problems we weren’t able to do.

It’s not like we’re not trying. Certainly large groups of people are coming together to protest ideological differences, while others craft new legislation to create solutions. It’s just that sometimes the way we try is wrong. At one point in Gracelyn’s cleanup effort, her foot was on top of the bag, making it nearly impossible for the paper shreds to land inside. The recent protests on women’s rights and immigration have been eye-opening and heart-warming for people to learn that they are not alone. There is power that comes in numbers, but action is needed beyond sign-waving and chanting. I hope these groups are able to find some way to positively bring in their opposition for true dialogues as their leaders are working on next action steps. Progress doesn’t exist in a silo. Our representatives need to put partisan politics aside and listen to what is being said across the aisle from whatever side they are on. If compromise is considered a dirty word, perhaps collaboration will be clean enough for people to use.

I think of the recent health care proposal as an example. It appears Republicans didn’t even take the time within themselves to gain consensus before moving forward. If all we are doing is expecting representatives to vote along party lines, you’re not doing the best possible job to find true solutions to problems. Even beyond coming to a consensus, could people from all representative political parties not come together to map out a plan forward? Our country continues to be incredibly divided; it only makes sense for bipartisan work to move to the forefront.

The counter argument to people like myself who call for our representatives to work together is that the previous administration did the same polarizing work. I don’t recall the history of the original Affordable Care Act, but I’m sure it too could have benefited from collaboration across our political representation at the time. Good leaders don’t compare themselves to their predecessors and use their shortcoming as an example for their current poor behavior. In my parenting world, this means that just because a little kid in Gracelyn’s class stole her snack, it doesn’t mean she gets to steal the other kid’s snack. Stealing is still wrong, and I won’t tolerate her doing it. We shouldn’t tolerate our representatives doing it either.

It’s easy to put my hope for a better tomorrow on Gracelyn’s generation, as she and her peers have such promise to actually make a difference. They’re still so young and unencumbered by the woes of this nation and world. We’ve all likely contributed to the shredding of tissue paper in the world, and now it’s all of our responsibility to pick up the pieces and put them back in the bag. This time, let’s do it together.