I read recently an excellent article by Jesmyn Ward about…
“An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.”
THE “DIS-UNITED” STATES OF AMERICA
I would like to think that bipartisanship can work in the United States. JFK once wrote, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.” In the wake of the incredibly acrimonious election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson claimed, “We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”
These are high-minded expressions of reason that highlight the importance of seeing what links us Americans more than what separates us. Jefferson explained it thusly: “But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” We can agree to disagree, and then move on to work together do the people’s business in government.
But more often nowadays what I see is raw anger in irrational emotion ruling people’s political outlook. Americans do not so much think and reason out their own ideas about politics as feel anger and hostility towards their political opponents.
- On the Right with the Neocons on Fox News and Realpolitics – they have this view that the “media elite” is assassinating them, etc. Hate liberals. In their own media cave they have this view of the world and will stick to it even if the real world is dissimilar. Bush lands on an aircraft carrier and operations over. Iraq is full of dead enders. “Spin” the message, and all will be well! “America is moving towards a better place.” In what world do you live? “Democracy moving forward in the Middle East.” Just because it is so in Neoconservative think tanks in the Beltway culture does not make it so in real life. “Evidence to the contrary is media lies.” The Neocons as music directors who are tone deaf —
— Arrogant. Complacent. Calculating. Dimwitted. “C students” who go to business school.
- Then on the Left , there is enormous personal hostility towards President Bush. A cowboy. A mediocre student. An ex-oil man. A Christian. Texas. He pushes all their buttons. I think many of them would like to see America’s efforts in the Middle East fail simply to see Bush fail: they hate the man so much they have trouble seeing the issues that are deeper than any one man. Many are the professional America haters – its people are too religious, too greedy, too irresponsive to the environment, too “insensitive,” too loud, etc. America is the source of evil in the world. We now live in a police state, brought to us by the evil Conservatives. “I despair for American democracy and plan to move to Canada or Europe!” (Maybe they should.) —
— Soft. Naïve. Unrealistic. Fuzzy-headed. “A students” who become sociology professors.
And I am not immune to this ugly trend.
For example, I took more delight at watching California Democrats squeal in pain and anguish in 2003 when Gray Davis was recalled from office than I took in satisfaction in seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger win his job. I don’t much like California Republicans, but my dislike for California Democrats is much more animating and enlivening. I spent most of the election evening of October 7, 2003 on the Internet lurking silently in the background of Bay Area (home of California lefties) chatrooms and blogs and watched Democrats squeal in pain and horror. (This gave me – I am ashamed to say – deep pleasure!) I enjoyed watching the Democrats lose in 2004 more than I enjoyed watching George Bush win. In short, I found more fulfillment in watching my enemies be scattered to the winds than in viewing my allies triumph on the field. I recognize this as unhealthy both for myself and my country.
All around America I see friends, family, and coworkers whose differing political opinions make it so they can hardly talk to one another. Or they can talk about anything but politics – leading to tense silence, awkward avoidances, and hypocritical smiles. Nobody says what they really think, and God help it if they do! Witness the shouting match at the family dinner table over the War in Iraq that had been long and coming, the more frightful for its long buildup.
What about the future? Where might we go from here?
There is not a whole lot of anybody who inspires much – and those I do like and respect, Rudy Giuliani, Mark Warner, John McCain, Barack Obama, seem to be the ones that cannot win. Too independent. Too old. Too inexperienced. Not palatable enough to the “Party base” (ie. Party extremists).
Still, when I look at politics – and especially foreign affairs – I feel no affinity to follow anybody’s party line. The problems are huge and will not substantially change if one political party vacates the White House and the other enters it. An Islamist terrorist in Cairo or London would kill a Democratic American tourist in Egypt or Great Britain as quickly as he would kill a Republican one. North Korea has been our blood enemy since 1950, and Iran has hated our guts since 1979. The beast which is the health care or housing crisis will not change its spots because Democrats control Congress instead of Republicans. The world is not that simple, and neither would be any solutions.
Is John Kerry and George Bush really the best we can do as leader for the United States of America? The spirit of Howard Dean and Rick Santorum the best the Democratic and Republican Parties have to offer? Will Hillary Clinton drag more of the late nineties Bill Clinton-muck back into politics? Is that not moving backwards rather than forward? The Bill and Hillary show replayed?
Will the election of 2008 prove enervating or re-invigorating to America?
Will this trend continue where one’s political opponents are not mistaken or wrong but instead are nothing less than the embodiment of evil, harbingers of doom, and enemies of democracy?
Who will be big enough to lead the ENTIRE country? Who might have that clarity of vision AND the soft political touch to lead a fractious people forward?
Whoever that person is, America needs you.
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.”
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