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Opinion: Are we looking at politics through the right lenses?


By Sen. Pat Dougherty

I can’t recall the first time I got prescription eyeglasses, but I can tell you when and where I first lost them–in the Grand Canyon while on our honeymoon some 45 years ago.  Since then I have lost numerous pairs of glasses much to my consternation….and each time it seems the lenses needed changing because I changed.  I seem to need my glasses more and more.

Today I looked at my glasses, or maybe myself, and marveled at the clarity which comes from wearing them but also the real difficulty it is to see straight when I don’t have the right lenses.  That got me to thinking about how I really see things and what lenses am I wearing.

The ones I have either help me to see clearly, or not and if it not then it is time to get a new prescription.

All this got me to wondering — why is it so hard to see clearly these days? It dawned on me that maybe there are too many lenses that are causing me not to see clearly, that I had not just one pair of lenses but I had too many.

I counted Democrat and Republican lenses, white and black lenses, conservative and liberal, rural and urban lenses, my church/faith lens, government is the problem or solution lens (rich/poor). No wonder I can’ t see straight. How am I to see clearly if I have so many dang lenses?

I find myself wondering what the hell I am looking at.

What am I to do? I have spent a fortune on these lenses, a.k.a. a lifetime, and I’m not sure I can see straight with any of them! I need lenses, sure, but which ones help me to see with clarity?

I have grown up now these 70 years with all these varied and maybe even seemingly contradictory lenses through which I view the world and I feel like I can’t see straight.  Maybe others are like me and feel even our country can’t see straight. Seeing clearly is so hard!

These lenses have got me to where I am today.  Like my prescription ones, they helped me to see at the time, but then they needed to be corrected and I got new lenses and could see clearly. But now?   

What lenses make sense? So what do I need now?

I have come to the conclusion that the only lenses that make sense through which to view the world, to inform my heart and head, to empower me to live worthy of my taking up space on this earth is the lens of human dignity.

Once I can at least begin to see others as possessing the inherent human dignity that I have; once I begin to see that we are brothers and sisters; once I begin to inform my action with the understanding that I am a fellow traveler, then maybe I can begin to see more clearly.

Maybe with a lens of seeing each other as having inherent dignity, as possessing the same humanness that I possess and walking this earth as I do…maybe then my only response as an individual and our responses as a country will be to seek what we call “the common good” and when that doesn’t happen, we refuse to fall into the hell of division and hate and fear, but we rise and call others to that which is the best in us.

Now more than ever, for our personal lives, and especially for our country in these turbulent times as we face elections very soon—now is the time to call ourselves and each other to see with new lenses—the lenses of human dignity and the common good.


Patrick Dougherty is a former state senator. Due to term limits, he retired from political life in 2007 after nearly 30 years of service in the Missouri General Assembly.