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A political odd couple's advice on finding common ground

Don't demonize your opponents or let them demonize you - ignorance of each other stops discourse

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Neil simon's play, "The Odd Couple," is about two men who share an apartment and seem to have nothing in common. Yet despite their differences they develop an enduring friendship. The two of us are a bit like Mr. Simon's characters - seemingly diametrically opposed because of our politics, but ultimately closely aligned as friends and collaborators.

We were brought together by CBS's "60 Minutes" program, which had been looking for experts to provide insight concerning the 1999 Columbine massacre - we're experts in the social impact of video games.

We suspect that the two of us were selected by the program because our obvious social and political differences would make good TV. Gene is a liberal Democrat with a strong interest in social justice, and Jack a Republican and Christian conservative. Gene is a university professor trained as a social scientist and humanist and is focused on research and reflection. Jack is an attorney focused on public interest law and activism.

But our common ground is a shared belief that first-person shooter video games are bad for our children, teaching them to act aggressively and providing them with efficient killing skills and romanticized and trivialized scenarios for killing in the real world.

By strange coincidence, we live down the street from each other.

Our first meeting took place over breakfast on neutral ground - a local bagel shop. We were cautious with each other. Jack expected Gene to consider him a right-wing lunatic, and Gene was afraid of being labeled a bleeding-heart liberal. But as we began to listen to one another, the stereotypes fell aside and we found that despite our differences, we had a great deal in common - concerns about the encroachment of big business on government and the gap between rich and poor, for example.


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