Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Lessons During Two Years of Writing

When you write a column on a Sunday or Monday, but don’t have it printed until later in the week there’s always a chance the week’s events could change the impact of the column. After two years it finally happened.

Last week’s column calling for a Diplomatic Surge in Iraq was penned, but not printed before some outstanding news came from Iraq.

Iraqi lawmaker’s passed three long-awaited measures that bode well for the future of the country and the political process there. They passed a budget for 2008, a law which detailed provincial powers and prepared for provincial elections this fall, and approved amnesty for prisoners being held but not charged. The last measure met yet another of our “benchmarks” for success.

In combining the measures into one piece of legislation, the three major factions showed much reconciliation and cooperation, although the process was contentious at times. But the success of the process certainly gives hope to the likelihood of needed future legislation.

Although the reporting and analysis of the legislation, the events leading up to it, and its impact for the future varied from pessimistic to very optimistic, this legislation is yet another step forward for the country.

If the State Department was instrumental to assisting Iraq’s politicians with this legislation, I’ll reconsider my position, but they would need to keep up the good work. This could even be a point of hope in that the State Department has finally found a way to overcome their own bureaucracy to make something happen.

If the Iraqi’s acted of their own accord, then the Miranda memo cited here about the State Department’s ineptitude and the Iraqi’s capabilities was well timed.

Highlighting the change in the week’s events leads to one of the lessons learned during two years of daily research and weekly writing. It’s actually relearned after watching politicians and party officials be incorrect or on the wrong side of on an issue, but unwilling to change course when new facts highlight the need for change. Whether stuck in our own paradigm or adamantly following a party line without foundational principles, an unwillingness or incapacity for change is something we should avoid.

I’ve learned to look for the differences in positions and at different perspectives, regardless of an individual’s political affiliation or foundation, instead of assuming affiliation matched position. For example, Senator Nelson has a moderate stance on Iraq, contrary to many in his party, whereas Senator Hagel’s position is most likely to match what is often considered liberal. Both usually contradict their own party on the subject, and Senator Hagel’s position is contrary to his conservative ideals in other areas. I’ve learned, and am still learning when to agree or disagree with individuals and well-defined groups on specific issues, and when a broad-brush is appropriate.

I’ve also learned to give credit where credit is due. Although I adamantly disagree with Senator Hagel on the war in Iraq, he should be commended for his movement on what is being touted as a G.I. Bill for the 21st Century. The old G.I. Bill had done well in its time, but an update has been sorely needed. Senator Hagel, along with Senator Webb of Virginia, has introduced the “Post-9/11 Veterans’ Educational Assistance Act” to provide benefits that reflect current costs of education and living.

After spending some time in Washington D.C., I’ve learned just how busy our elected officials can be. They run rigorous, tight schedules both in D.C. and back home. Although I have disagreed with them on issues, I would never criticize or accuse them of neglect or laziness for missing a vote or declining attendance at an event. Anyone who would really needs to pay more attention to the demands on our elected officials in Washington.

I’ve learned to laugh at the contacts from those who anonymously disagree. Although their ramblings have been humorous, I’ve found the lack of courage to put a name on the criticism even funnier. While I respect those who have publicly disagreed with their names intact, the anonymous “hate-mail” ends up where it’s best suited, in the circular file.

Those who anonymously disagree have steeled my resolve to keep writing more than they know (until now), but not as much as those who’ve contacted me and asked me to keep writing. I’ve learned this perspective is in far more demand than I thought, so I will.

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