Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thoughts on America

A little behind, perhaps, I just read Bob Herbert’s “Cause for Alarm” from the July 5 New York Times. In many respects I couldn’t agree more. I love the line “The symbols of patriotism — bumper stickers and those flags the size of baseball fields — have taken the place of the hard work and sacrifice required to keep a great nation great.” For years I have felt that too many people were adopting the empty trappings of patriotism (look at all the ludicrous debate about Obama’s flag pin) without taking on anything of substance. This bumper sticker patriotism is lazy, both intellectually and morally.

One area, though, I thought could stand a little more exploration: “...the combination of unrestrained partisanship and the corrosive influence of big money have all but paralyzed the political process.” Many believe that we are in an era of unprecedented partisanship. Au contrae, mes amies! Historically, our country has practiced bare-knuckles politics. One simply needs to look at the Adams/Jefferson election to see how ugly politics can get, and how entrenched this is. Of course, to be fair to America, British politics can make America’s look decorous, but I digress.

Partisanship, though a long-standing tradition, has been (and is) corrosive. It has poisoned the government, most egregiously so after the most volatile campaigns. It’s hard to come together for the betterment of all after brutalizing each other so. I must be quick to add that neither party is better or worse (or the one who “started it”, as I’ve heard childishly brandished about).

The only one’s who can stop this corrosive nonsense are us, the voters. By simply rebelling, refusing to participate in this doggerel, we can finally move our society out of this contentious nonsense. It’s more than simply refusing to vote against those that practice this (would we have a candidate to choose?). First, it’s denouncing this every time we see it, especially if it’s OUR candidate launching it. Secondly, and I would say far more importantly, is for us to engage the issues. Yep, use that good ol’ brain and understand the issues. When we can, amongst ourselves, have civilized discussions about government and governance, the polemics will have no choice but to follow. Can we imagine a time where the citizenry were fully aware and engaged on all (or at least most) of today’s issues? It will require both intellectually courage, and an intense desire to do away with the lazy malaise, both moral and intellectual, that enmeshes us.

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