Twenty years ago Rodney King uttered the now famous line, “Can’t we all just get along?” and I’ve been thinking about his question for a couple of weeks now as I’ve watched my television for updates on the unrest in Egypt and Libya. Plastered across the screen are images of some pretty angry people on all sides; and from the comfort of my couch I wonder how mediation will eventually help the situation. I then wonder what it would be like to participate in peacemaking on such an important level. This leads me to another thought, which causes me to chuckle to myself as I realize that it’s time to come clean about something.
Before you think I’m going to get too serious here, let me say that I’ve never had any delusions of grandeur about being plucked from obscurity to change the world on such a large scale by helping countries like Egypt or Libya define their futures. Nah, I’m more likely to change the world one mediation at a time in my own backyard, thank you. With that being said, what I need to come clean about is the hope that I’m not the only mediator who gets sucked into anything on television and thinks that news teams, sitcoms, dramas, and reality shows could really use a good mediator on staff.
So, I wonder…am I the only mediator who thinks the writers on certain dramatic shows could have come up with a better (mediated) solution than the one that wraps up in the last five minutes of the program? Or, am I the only one who knows the spat that’s too easily solved on a sitcom won’t last long because the characters’ core values haven’t been met? I admit I watch my favorite reality shows and am often tempted to write in to offer my services off-camera because I can’t stand to watch the relationships between these real people disintegrate any further for the sake of entertainment. What mediator who’s ever watched the family mess between father and son on American Chopper hasn’t simultaneously felt like a voyeur and an interested student of conflict? I know I have. The viewer in me picks a side…the mediator in me knows better.
Sometimes I ruin shows for those watching with me because Little Miss Mediator feels the need to let anyone within earshot know the questions she would ask of the characters to help resolve their differences or because I can’t help but point out the inconsistencies in what the evening news interviewee says he wants and the actions he took. I go on and on about how a good mediator could help the (fictional or real) players better understand their own perspectives so they could better communicate their needs to the others on the screen. Yep, I get sucked in and wonder, along with Rodney King, about our capacity to get along. But, rather than repeat his question, I’ve developed my own: “Can’t we all just get a good mediator?”