[First published 25 October 2012]
I have an idea.
What if before electing a President or Senator or Congressional Representative, say every 10 years, we were required to spend every 9th year trading places with someone – ANYONE else – in the country, or better yet, in the world? There would be no loopholes, no exceptions, and most importantly, NO CHOICE. Simple lottery. You could end up next door, or you could end up on the other side of the world.
Parents with children under the age of 18 would be able to stay together and take their children with them. Children over 18 and all others would have to draw their own lot.
All mortgage, insurance and basic automatic payments for those who have such things would be covered to insure that their home and basic belongings would be covered during the time away, and the person traveling away would receive the median income of the person or family or town or situation to which he or she would be relocated, whether that amount would result in an increase or decrease of resources, plus appropriate clothing and food for the climate to last 6 months of the year away. The remaining resources will have to be earned or gathered in local ways.
Sometimes an individual’s situation would improve dramatically, and sometimes the situation would suffer dramatically. There are important and often unexpected challenges either way. Sometimes the exchange situation would just be a wash, with little noticeable change.
Everyone would move around all at once during the 5th year, and in the 6th year following this experiment, national and international elections would be held. Candidates could only run for public office if they had proven participation in the trade-out year during the most recent cycle. All campaign candidates would receive the same amount of money from a central campaign fund for media appearances and advertising.
- How long would it take for social policies to change, and what would they look like?
- How long would it take for societies to disintegrate into a Mad-Max-Thunder-Drome scenario, where the candidates would try to kill each other off early since their resources for manipulation would be limited and evenly distributed?
- How long would it take for traditional adversaries to reach across the aisle and support legislation that benefited everyone?
- How long would it take before we would actually be willing to trade places with anyone, anywhere in the world for a brief and finite period of time, or for a lifetime?
- How long would it take for us to change the way we live at home?
- How long would it take for us to adapt or change our foreign policy, regardless of the particular country, to shift away from territorial imperatives to embrace the entire planet?
- How long would it take us to treat others the way we would want to be treated if we lived in their shoes?
Maybe there is something to be said for ending big government. What if this were the only thing big government did for four cycles – 40 years: give its people a taste of the vast country and the vast world? What would our revised governments look like? What would our old and new dwelling places and consumption patterns look like? What would be the shifting nature of daily life? How many of us are ready to begin such an experiment? What if we as voters didn’t agree to this outrageous but intriguing possibility, but insisted that our elected leaders did?
When all is said and done, the best social – and perhaps political – policy can be summed up in 5 simple words: “What goes around, comes around.”
Sooner or later, anticipated or not, wherever you may find yourself on the political or social or cultural or ethnic or religious or intellectual or age or gender spectrum, remember this if you remember nothing else: What goes around always, eventually, comes around. Can you live with that? Can you find true leadership that expresses and supports that simple axiom?
In the last remaining days before this U.S. election, try a simple experiment: find a place in this country or elsewhere the world where you would least like to live, and go there if you can afford to get there, for 24 hours. That place could be a place of wealth or poverty, of sickness or health. If you do not feel safe in such a place because it is so different from what you know, see if you can find someone there to look out for you and keep you safe for this short period of time. Use your six degrees of separation to create a mind boggling experience for yourself.
And then go home and hold those you love close to you. Pay attention to what you love about your current situation and life and work and friends and hominess and even homelessness and uncertainty and loneliness. Then think about what happened during your time on the other side of life. And then, finally, vote with your heart and your newly found, albeit brief and tiny glimpse, into beginning to understand what goes around.
It really doesn’t matter how you vote. It really does matter that you understand those five simple words: “What goes around, comes around.” Stand tall and wise and proud as what goes around from you comes back around to bless you. And for once, at last, your blessing encompasses the whole world.