[FORUM]The politics of understanding

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[FORUM]The politics of understanding

Prayer for Peace:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:/Where there is hatred, let me sow love:/Where there is injury, pardon;/Where there is doubt, faith;/. . . .”
This is Saint Francis’s “Prayer for Peace” which Lee Mi-gyeong, a lawmaker of the Uri Party, reportedly recited after discussions with President Roh Moo-hyun at the Blue House on Wednesday evening. This meeting was arranged by President Roh to persuade opponents of the troop deployment to Iraq.
It is reported that Ms. Lee drove President Roh into a corner by arguing that the dispatch has no justification and is unreasonable, whereas President Roh explained the realistic circumstances and expressed his view on the inevitability of the deployment.
As the discussion became heated, Mr. Roh said to Ms. Lee, “I truly respect your maintaining right thought without losing the attitude of pursuing principles under any circumstances.” This could be the highest praise.
And he asked for her understanding by saying, “Politicians sometimes withhold pursuing ideals for the time being because of realistic conditions and urgent matters.” His remarks were respectful and considerate enough to win people’s hearts.
Ms. Lee’s clean surrender was also good to see. After paraphrasing the prayer as “Where there is division, agreement,” she responded, “Our attitude toward dealing with the troop deployment issue should be like this.” Remarkable was her thoughtful concern that she retreated a step to make a compromise without withdrawing her conviction.
Such an attitude of exchanging ideas sufficiently; understanding, acknowledging and accepting others’ opinions; valuing others’ concession highly and showing gratitude wholeheartedly, this is the virtue that is keenly required in our society and in our political arena that is filled with disruption and confrontation.
Some may ask why I am bubbling over a meeting of members from the same party, but let’s look back on our combative situation where every issue leads to confrontation. Doesn’t this scene give a little comfort?
Its significance can also be found in that it was the first internal coordination amid the confusion of the party and politicians, arising from the fact that lots of lawmakers with a democratic movement background joined the ruling party and began to voice their opinions in earnest.
Such an attitude of dialogue, concessions and consideration that President Roh and Ms. Lee showed is the basic framework for the politics of coexistence. For the warm-hearted scene to function, however, performing only with the same party members or people sharing the same code is not sufficient. The performance will be complete when it is carried out together with anti-Roh forces who have shown hostility against the president, including opposition parties and the media.
The situation is noisy with the issue of moving the capital. Since President Roh gave the supreme order “to fulfill the plan even by staking the fate of the administration,” people are divided in their views, and the country is on the brink of splitting into two.
Defining critics as “shakers of the president,” Mr. Roh closed his mind, while critics shook their heads, saying that the president was obstinate. Officials from Seoul and Gyeonggi province are prepared to stage a demonstration against the plan. In this situation, can the plan be carried out properly?
Following the model of persuading the opponents of the troop deployment, President Roh should meet and talk with opponents of moving the capital. The mayor of Seoul and the governor of Gyeonggi province could function as representatives in the dialogue.
He needs either to ask their understanding or to accept their objection. The best solution would be to arrange a meeting for a deep discussion among experts and reach a final decision after reviewing the results of the discussion. If he pushes the plan forward, leaving out the process of public discussion, this will reflect obstinacy and self-righteousness, the greatest enemy of democracy.
It is not only the issue of moving the capital. With a confrontational attitude that Mr. Roh has shown so far, he can never succeed in reform. He should embrace opponents with the same heartfelt consideration that he showed in persuading the disagreeing legislators within the party.
“Grant that I may not/ So much seek to be consoled/As to console,/To be understood as to understand,/ To be loved as to love./ For it is in giving that we receive,/. . . . “ continues the prayer of the barefooted friar Saint Francis.

* The writer is the chief of the editorial page, JoongAng Ilbo.

by Heo Nam-chin
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