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Complex problems call for complex, even imperfect, solutions

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I spent last week at home with a sick 21-month-old. Zachary is still too young to really watch television, so instead of animated shows, I watched a lot of cable news channels.

Which I guess in a way is sort of like animated television.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

On Monday, I watched the presidential inauguration. On Tuesday, I watched the reaction to President Obama’s speech. On Wednesday I watched the Benghazi hearings. On Thursday I watched some of the John Kerry secretary of state confirmation hearings. And of course, there were plenty of talking heads breaking down everything I had just seen.

By Friday, I pretty much had my fill of Washington politics and the endless analysis of everything political.

What I came to realize is that we have a lot of challenges ahead of us that can only be solved if we get cooperation on both sides of the political aisle. And both sides need to understand that while they may have many valid points to their argument, their opponents also have some valid points.

Take gun control, for instance. I heard arguments ranging from eliminating gun-free school zones and arming teachers to banning any and all “assault” weapons. I even heard one guest explaining that aesthetics of buildings such as schools lead to a safer environment. If I understood it correctly, building a school with large windows and attractive landscaping that leads people to a central point of entry makes it less likely to be the scene of a crime compared to a school that looks like a prison or a fortress.

The fact that there are so many different viewpoints is evidence that these are complex problems that require complex solutions. And nobody’s solution is going to work 100 percent of the time.

I also heard Senator Kerry make what I thought was a very good point when he said that the United States needs to get “its fiscal house in order” if American diplomats will have any credibility to call for economic reforms of other nations. Like the gun control debates, there are plenty of varying opinions on how to accomplish that most important task.

We may not agree on how to solve the problems before us, but that doesn’t mean we can allow the problems to continue to go unsolved. President Barack Obama touched on that theme during his inaugural address: “Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.

“For now decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.”

Whether you agree with the president’s politics or not (and judging from recent Wise County elections, the majority of local residents do not), I think we can all agree with his sentiment that action must be taken.

At the very least, it will give the talking heads something new to talk about.

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