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This is how adults behave

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John Krull
  • John Krull
Not long ago, I moderated a discussion between the candidates for mayor of Indianapolis, Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican Chuck Brewer.

I’ve been thinking about that event ever since the three of us stepped off the stage.

It wasn’t that the discussion produced any fireworks or “a-ha, gotcha” moments. No, the whole conversation was, without fail, cordial, polite and respectful.

Neither candidate called the other names.

Both candidates acknowledged that, even when they disagreed, the other man had a valid point of view and was operating in both good faith and good will.

In short, they talked to and about each other like mature adults.

And maybe that is what made the discussion memorable.

Brewer and Hogsett came together to talk about homelessness. Both acknowledged that it was a problem of growing seriousness in Indianapolis.

But neither man pointed fingers. Neither attempted to lay the blame for the problem at the foot of the other party. Neither tried to score cheap political points.

Nope, both men just said this was a problem – a human problem, a tragic problem – and that we needed to solve it.

As a community.

Brewer talked about his service as a U.S. Marine and said that the fellowship he feels with other veterans didn’t end when he took off the uniform. For that reason, he explained, the high incidence of veterans who are homeless causes him particular pain. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that every night, between 130,000 and 200,000 veterans are homeless in America. That’s between 20 and 25 percent of the total of all homeless people.

Brewer said we shouldn’t forget the people who stepped up to defend us in times of danger when they come home bearing the scars, seen or unseen, of their service.

Hogsett talked with equally moving frankness about the growth of poverty. He talked about our moral obligation to alleviate the sufferings of the poor – of finding ways for those among us with the least to climb out of the pit of need.

But he also discussed a more utilitarian reason for dealing with poverty. Allowing the gap between the haves and the have-nots to grow ever wider – and to allow the numbers of have-nots to continue expanding – will foster resentment on both sides of the divide.

That resentment will make it much more difficult for us to deal with common problems. It will make it harder and harder for us to function – as a community.

When Hogsett and Brewer talked, there was no rancor, no mean-spiritedness.

Some of that civility may be a by-product of the office to which they both aspire. Politicians in other offices have the luxury of indulging in posturing and other political game-playing, but mayors in major cities have to make those cities work.

They have to be adept at resolving, rather than exacerbating, differences and tending to business. As the famed New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia once observed, “There is no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets.”

Mayors who forget that fundamental truth – who forget to clean the streets, tend to business and make the city run – soon find the prefix “ex” attached to their titles.

Even given that, Brewer and Hogsett are doing something rare these days by engaging in a political campaign in which they disagree without being disagreeable.

Both men have received some heat for this. There are members of their respective political parties who want them to mix it up more – who desperately want the adrenalin, attention and energy a fight, however pointless, brings.

And some of my colleagues in the press corps have complained that Hogsett and Brewer have been a lot less entertaining than most of the mud wrestling matches that pass for political contests these days.

Not me.

I find it refreshing to have two smart, dedicated, mature human beings – politicians, at that –treat each other as smart, dedicated and mature human beings.

Memorable, even.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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