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LOS ANGELES Thursday, November 26th 2015 2:10

The Grand Canyon That Need Not Divide Us

ALPERN AT LARGE - After an exhilarating week of vacationing with my family in Northern Arizona, my usual refrain of “the answer is obvious, there are two sides of the story that must be necessary for preserving our city, nation, world and sanity” is again reasserted by the raw beauty and majesty of the Painted Desert, Sedona and—of course—the Grand Canyon. Any doubts of a higher Power, and the power of Humanity to preserve the beauty of our world, are squelched at the vision of one of our world’s great natural wonders but a few hours to the east.  Our need to conserve and enhance access to our National Parks, and to maintain an economy that provides the technology and resources to achieve these ends, is paramount.  Of that we can all surely agree on, right?

So along comes the conservative study that concludes that the University of California experience leaves many with an unbalanced experience. (Link)

Some may file this under “of course, you ninny, tell me something we don’t know”.  Others may file this under “look at the source, you ninny, tell me something we don’t know.”  Others yet may file this under “everyone knows the press and those who’ve taken over academia are to the far left, and Fox News and Wall Street have been taken over by the far right, you ninny…tell me something we don’t know.”

Yet we all see as much “liberal takeover” of unions, who should ideally work with consumers and taxpayers, as we do corporate monstrosities and financial institutions, who should also ideally work with consumers and taxpayers that suffer from “conservative takeover”.  Too many in government appear to fight religion—particularly if it’s Christian in flavor—and too many seeking to reform government appear to be pushing their Christianity in ways that cry for relevance.

Meanwhile, as our nation grays, unfortunately those who still visit our nation’s natural wonders also get grayer. (Link)    Furthermore, our nation struggles with a desire to find and/or return to the religious background that keeps us grounded. (Link)

All the while amidst an economy that some spin positive, others spin negative, but that we ultimately just don’t know at all where it’s going…and amidst a political season that will be as bruising, partisan and divisive as any.

Yet while the Grand Canyon is ten miles wide and one mile deep, our nation’s political/psychological canyon need not be so divisive.  Particularly because it’s not truly real.

After all, both political sides (except, perhaps, the partisan hacks of each major political party) are concerned with voter and citizen apathy, a lack of spirit and hope that permeates among too many within our society, and the need to provide a sounder future for our children than what currently appears on the horizon.

Yet privately, we each can find common ground in our individual lives.  The need to balance family and career (this is especially true when one has children), the need to balance income creation and to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor, and the need to balance what we owe ourselves versus what we owe our society.  Take away the whole liberal/conservative, Republican/Democrat thing, and we really all end up at the same fundamental place.

At another elemental, rudimentary level, the married amongst us can find a common bond in the daily benefits and conflicts of couplehood—particularly so when children are in the picture, for then a couple is TRULY married.  Lord knows I’m blessed with a wife who both supports me when I need it the most, and yet also confronts me when I need it the most.  

Because we all need to face this world knowing we’re not alone, yet we also need to face this world knowing that NONE of us ALL have the answers.  In other words, the debate itself is part of the answer…not the conclusions of the debate, which usually has no distinct answers.

I admit that my vacation was both somewhat blessed and marred by my finishing the haunting Hunger Games Trilogy (extraordinarily well-written, despite its plot that describes a society filled with horrors too numerous and terrible to imagine).   As I mentioned in a previous article (link), I was reading to stay ahead of my fast-reader of a son, although it was not hard to finish this engrossing series.

As with other recent literary and film icons for young adults (and not-so-young adults), the main character is a strong female character, (link) which is in line with other female role models who have influenced the rise of female columnists, actresses and politicians of all political stripes.

In our post-feminist era, where the definition of a “real man” or a “real woman” always appears at play and up for debate, there is no question of the need for any man or woman to speak their mind…but there is no question, either, that that man or woman should remain forever aware that he/she doesn’t have all the answers.

After all, in the Harry Potter series, Harry and Ron needed Hermione—and vice versa.  Ditto for the Hunger Games trilogy, where the female lead, Katniss, absolutely needed her male counterparts Peeta and Gale—and vice versa.  All of these characters are flawed, and the more they acknowledged their flaws the more they recognized the need (despite the discomfort that comes with this recognition) to rely on these others.

So this seemingly “Grand Canyon” between Republicans and Democrats, men and women, conservatives and liberals, will hopefully be recognized by a new generation (if us old folks don’t screw it up) as a façade of our own creation.  A straw man, if you will, that doesn’t really exist in the well-organized minds of the Strong.

Strong, as in strong enough to take the opinions of those who disagree with us.  Strong, as in strong enough to appreciate our two-party system.  Strong, as in recognizing the benefits of not having to have all the answers.

One need not go all the way to northern Arizona, the Pacific Northwest, the Canadian Rockies, or to any other cherished National Park in our nation, country or hemisphere, to figure this out.  But, if it helps to do so, then I highly encourage you all to try it sometime.  Your life just won’t be complete without it.

(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Vice Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at   The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

Tags: Grand Canyon, Ken Alpern

Vol 10 Issue 29
Pub: Apr 10, 2012