Saturday, May 22, 2010

For The People

It can reasonably be said that the American people are tired of politics as usual, to such an extent that in recent primaries, incumbents were dealt severe blows, falling to new-comers who promised change and an end to "the usual business in Washington, D.C." The anger of a nation, fueled by a wanton Wall Street, corporate disaster, economic failure, mass foreclosure, and partisan politics, is being turned on those who constructed the house of cards that so recently fell, and continues to rain down on the citizens of this country. Rightly so, for the rush to consolidate power, to become adherents of corporations, and to use their political ambition toward their own self-aggrandizement, has cheapened Federal government and made a hopeless muddle of a system that should be serving the general welfare, not lining the pockets of its legislators.

However, in their haste, and untempered by cool reason, some Americans have fallen in for the cheap and easy fix. They seek to replace career politicians based solely on the rhetoric of change, and not with a critical eye toward the character and capability of those they would anoint. They drink of the wellspring of ill-will toward Washington, D.C., but do not taste the poison that still laces it. It is enough that the name-plate on the door changes, and that the elected agree with them wholeheartedly. There is no great debate, no casting of ideas, no formulation of a common theme, merely the reactionary tide of displeasure, which, as before the tsunami, sweeps all away regardless of worth, to leave wreckage in its midst, and an opportunity for the vipers and charlatans to have their day.

The ill-considered lauding of those who stand on in deep, dark chasms, rather than in the purer light and air of the surface, means that the political structure of the Federal government may be shifted, such that a system already fraught with sluggish turmoil, may now be dragged down into festering chaos. It means those who have hidden their lack of sympathy for fellow humans, and their disdain for the very institutions they seek election to, may now stand in the hallowed halls of great legislators, and tear down the curtains and abscond with the candlesticks, as they chop and hack away at two hundred-plus years of progress, to toss our nation back into the mire from which it has been patiently inching.

They who would cloak themselves in the tattered remnants of our true history, place "patriotism" over plurality, and seek to rip the country off of its foundations of liberty and freedom for all, may very well be let in the front door, by citizens who have no reckoning, no inkling, no memory of the darkness from which this country has attempted to emerge. The blood spilled and spilled again defending the soil of the Colonies, then the American nation, and finally, the world, will have been spilled vainly, to see jesters, fools, and mountebanks run the kingdom, as they steal what little the poor have, to fuel the petty excesses of the rich. The shores will choke in oil, the skies blacken with smog and soot, the water run unnatural colors when fouled again with the ichor of industry, in the name of "free markets" and "productivity." America will become the land of Sisyphus, watching the boulder that is our freedom roll down the mountain, forcing us to trudge back down after it, yet again.

It is true that we need change, and that change started with the election of Barack Obama, but even he pronounced that this was not the end, but merely the beginning. Change, that inevitable and irresistible force, must be driven by our desire to do better than those who came before us, not by the simple desire to heave out the old and replace them with just anyone. We do ourselves and our nation's heritage a disservice when we stoop to mob rule; the Founding Fathers wanted better of us. They wanted citizens to stay engaged, to work with, not against, their government, and to be its arbiters and conservators and care-takers. They entrusted the people, for whom the government was formed, with the task of shepherding the nation through every new age, every new change, every new challenge, and gave us the power to ensure that the government met its obligations fairly and with honor. That government now is seen as an enemy, rather than a partner, is an indictment of we, the people, for it has become so only because we have refused to take our stewardship seriously.

Even now, we face a test. We can throw out the old, fill the seats with those who salve our consciences and stoke our prejudices -- to our ruination. Or, we can seek to promote those who will restore the patina of honor to government, who will carry through on the credo that our government is of, by, and for, us, by working to make all Americans partners again, by ensuring the safety, security, and well-being of all citizens, without cost to our individual liberty. Given the right people -- thoughtful, magnanimous, honorable, tolerant -- we can seek to honor our history, and by doing so, provide a meaningful and prosperous future for all. To do less, is to place our nation in peril, and to see the dream of the United States of America that our Founders gave life to wither and die in ignominy. Let us be sure that never comes to pass.

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