Finding common ground with Mr. Putin

I was talking with my new friend Shanelle recently (a good new friend to have, here’s your introduction) about a conversation she had with a friend who opposes access to abortion.

“I started with points we agree on,” she says. “We agree we both want children to be loved and cared for. We agree on use of contraceptives and family planning. We disagree on access to abortion — but we do have those things in common to build on.”

It occurs to me this principle is a pretty good one, especially after reading Mr. Putin’s personal letter to me. OK, it wasn’t strictly personal to me, but Russian President Vladimir Putin did specify in his recent letter in the New York Times that he was speaking directly to the American people, so that’s me. Probably you too. And despite the fact that Mr. Putin and I do not have a huge amount of things in common, I found a sizable list of points of agreement. For instance:

“Insufficient communication between our societies?” For sure. I’m willing to bet there are vast numbers of Russian grandmothers who, if they could communicate with American grandmothers, would have a primary mutual interest in keeping our grandchildren out of battle zones. Given a chance to communicate with each other, we could hammer out a way to do this. Absent that chance, we would applaud our leaders if they will please find a way to keep our grandchildren out of battle zones.

“No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations.” Goes almost without saying. What else have we got?

“There are few champions of democracy in Syria.” Yep. Sad, but I think we can agree on it.

“We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” What a concept. You could get agreement on this from the majority of grandmothers, mothers and women in between. Probably also a lot of guys.

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” Now we’re getting a little touchy. But if you are honest with yourself, we might agree on this point too.

I rather liked Mr. Putin’s closing zinger: “There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” Amen, Vladimir, amen.

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