Randy Forbes: The Wagon Wheel Illusion
An optical illusion exists called the Wagon Wheel effect. When the wagon wheel effect is taking place, a spoked wheel appears to rotate in a different direction than its true rotation. As you stare at a wagon wheel illusion, the wheel may appear to rotate one direction and then suddenly shift in another direction. It may appear to move quickly, and seconds later move slowly. Sometimes it may even appear to be stationary. In reality, the wheel’s true direction never changes. It only has you thinking that it does. In other words, the wagon wheel would fit in right here in Washington.
We see the wagon wheel effect a lot in Washington. Leaders appear to rotate one direction or at least to slow down for “discussion” on an issue. In reality, their true direction never changes. Instead, they rely on the illusion of being open to “working together,” and “finding common ground,” instead of building substantive, meaningful partnerships that lead to true progress.
Here is what working together does not mean:
It does not mean just speaking together at a press conference.
It does not mean merely coming together at a ribbon cutting to shake hands and pose for a picture.
It does not mean having a round table meeting with the only agenda being to defend your agenda.
These scenarios make good photo opps, but they’re often just an illusion, with a purpose of making the individuals appear to move one direction when they never actually move from the position of their true rotation.
In years past, citizens might have stood up and applauded these “efforts” to work together. Today, though, Americans are pushing back against the illusion. They know that those events are often carefully orchestrated to elicit the image of coming together to find common ground – but without corresponding action, the wheels just keep spinning. After a while, it becomes mind numbing to watch.
To face our nation’s biggest challenges, we need more than an illusion – we need a renewed focus on partnership. Real partnership requires more than a press conference or ribbon cutting. Real partnership requires dedication. It requires mutual respect. It requires a fight - not a heels-in-the-ground kind of fight, but rather a place of debate that encourages the best ideas to win out. A fight to better understand each other’s unwavering principles, and a desire to be creative and work within those frames.
Even more than partnership, we need a focus on partnership through principles. Today, we see a tendency to rally around party. The result? Politically charged discussions, politically driven decisions, and politically tired Americans.
If we rally around principle instead, we’ll find stronger partnerships and ultimately a better future for America. Rather than playing political games to create illusions of progress, we can find concrete common ground through the core principles we refuse to compromise on. Principles like: Honor – fighting for those who have fought for us, and fulfilling our promises to them and their families. Accountability – aggressively holding the government accountable for abuse and waste. Responsibility – reining in the out of control spending and debt that are mortgaging our children’s future. Liberty – safeguarding the constitutionally protected right to live according to our consciences and to carve out our own destinies. When we commit to stand on principles like these, we not only build the foundation for strong, working partnerships, we also provide the means of pushing our country forward.
Behind every major turning point in our nation’s history, you’ll find individuals who stood on principle rather than party to create a state where citizens could live freely with sovereignty over their own lives. President Lincoln and the abolishment of slavery, the Wright Brothers and the transportation revolution, Susan B. Anthony and voting rights for women, Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights. These leaders knew that to make lasting change, they needed to stand on principle and work through partnership to achieve their vision for our nation.
We’ll never move to the next defining moment in our nation if we continue to stare at the wagon wheel illusion. Instead, partnerships built on true principles will lead us to a better future for America.
Randy Forbes represents the Fourth District in Congress.
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