October 1, 2006
The end of the Arena Phenomenon
By Bill Kraus
The Arena Phenomenon is most evident in sports where the contending teams come together at the end of the game and exchange congratulations, condolences, and pleasantries.
Without disparaging the partisans in the stands, it is evident that the players on the field who have been through the preparation and the contest and the pressure of getting into the arena like each other better than they like those of us in the stands.
This effect used to be at work in politics as well.
The arguments on the floor were sharp, pointed, sometimes loud, and often rancorous. At the end of the day there was a vote.
At the end of the session, the participants could be expected to adjourn to the nearest watering hole where the disputes may have been put behind them or even continued. But what was mostly on display after the battle was mutual respect, even admiration. Camaraderie.
Like the athletes, the pols had gone the same torturous routes to get into the arena, and even if they thought each others’ opinions somewhere beyond misguided, they gave them the respect the differences deserved.
Most importantly, they liked each other, a little.
Now they don’t even have an opportunity to get to know each other to say nothing of developing any kind of mutual respect. Not too long ago an unnamed freshman representative organized a kind of get together of equals with his fellow beginners. The idea was to invite top administrators to talk to them about the workings of their departments. They met twice. They learned something. They began to get to know each other and what made their arena-mates tick. When he heard of these gatherings, a Speaker of the Assembly, who doesn’t need to be named, told his representatives not to attend.
They don’t talk.
They don’t listen.
The arguments are shouting matches.
Attack advertising is part of the route to political jobs, and the attacks continue once the jobs are won.
C’mon, folks. It’s an honorable trade practiced by superior people. Get together. Find a way to make it work. It might even be better than your way.
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