Sometimes, we need a soft and slow line

There seems to always be a line that can’t be crossed.  Real or imagined, people are reluctant to go into unfamiliar or forbidden territory, even if it is to their advantage to do so.  Yes, when President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address the cards were shuffled and members of Congress crossed the partisan divide to give the illusion of a bi-partisan audience.

There was a wonderful non-verbal non-violent lesson in a Super Bowl commercial.  It was called “Border.”  There were soldiers on either side of a line, each position to presumably keep the other from crossing into “his territory.”

A mini “Stockholm Syndrome” developed as the guards came to identify with one another.  I won’t spoil it any further; you can see it by clicking on the YouTube link below.

Sometimes barriers are broken in the simplest of ways.  Richard Nixon helped open the door to “communist China” by agreeing to American Ping-Pong players traveling to China for a series of exhibitions.  For years peace activists have arranged for Israeli and Palestinian youth to attend summer camp together in New England.

The absurdity of hard and fast lines is most obvious in battles between the “haves” and the “haves.”  Who wouldn’t want to command a contract of at least $200 million like Albert Pujols or have assets in excess of $4 billion like Cardinal owner Bill DeWitt?  Who wouldn’t want the salary of a NFL player or the wealth of a team owner?  Drawing hard and fast lines only means that everyone loses.  No one ever choked to death swallowing his or her pride.

What is interesting about the Coke commercial is how the sharing was under the radar.  After each guard had enjoyed his Coke, the previous arbitrary line was reestablished.  But as viewers we felt good because we knew that expedience could and probably would prevail again, the next time either one of them had something to share.

There are probably remarkable stories about actual guards near the DMZ in Korea or near the Brandenburg Gate when Berlin was divided.  We can be thankful to the police and members of the Egyptian army who did not fire on their own citizens prior to the toppling of Hosni Mubarak.  Hopefully Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s thug will let the forces of revolution gently move forward, crossing what was once a hard and fast line in a way that is almost invisible.

Progressives are justifiably concerned that their presumed representatives in government have thrown away the lines that define liberal principles.  There are times when we have to say “no more.”  One of the lessons of the Coke commercial is reciprocity.  Each guard did something for the other.

That doesn’t seem to be the case with the illusionary bi-partisanship that exists now.  Democrats give and receive little in return.  Our logjam will not be broken until some brave Republicans do as the first guard did in the commercial.  Look around, assess the risk, and wherever possible reach out.

In a sea of violence and sexism, there was a commercial that stood for integrity and equality.  Just on a hunch, I’m betting that more Republicans than Democrats watched the Super Bowl.  Maybe one or several of them saw the virtues of cooperation in the quietest commercial of them all.  At least we can hope so.