Monday, September 13, 2010

The Long, Dark Tea-Time Of America

I must admit some fascination and an admiration for the Tea Party movement, albeit a small amount. That it represents a group of Americans who are tired of politics as usual and want to see lower taxes and a return to the Constitution, is commendable. That those messages come attached to meaningless and nonsensical arguments, specious reasoning, and a general ignorance does not do them any favors. They are, frankly, no different than the parties they have split off from, more about the message than about concrete and reasonable results.

If there's anything that irks me most about them, it's that the more moderate among us, those of us who are well-intentioned, reasonable, compassionate, and capable of compromise, are not making the same amount, if not more, noise that the Tea Party. For all their bluster and bravado, the resounding sound that emanates from a Tea Party rally is a cacophony of worn-out phrase and quarter-baked ideas, most of which have been recycled from the over two hundred-year history of our nation, and have been found to be as wanting in the past as they are now. Yet the moderate Americans, the ones who think for themselves, and who are the eventual swing voters in every election, are not looking upon these people with the decent amount of horror they should, and reacting accordingly. Some of us have taken to blogs and newspapers and web sites trying to sound a rallying cry, yet hearing only crickets.

America is beautiful for its freedom of speech and religion and press and justice for all, but mixed in with all that is the undercurrent of restlessness that attends people who see all of that as the province of a few, not the many, and believe in it only by their rules. The beauty in our Republic is that by using a representative system, we can hold at bay those who would seek to impose their will on all of us only for the reason that it is their will. This is not to say all the ideals they hold are somehow wrong, but many are nonsensical. They are mere sound bites and party plank tropes that are simply uttered every election cycle as if they were powerful incantations that could force us all under the thrall of the chanter. When you hear "smaller government," "lower  taxes," "getting government of our backs," and the like, it stirs a passion, but when you look behind the words, you see very little substance that would give the phrases any power. No one can define just how big the government should be, or how much money should be made available to run it. No one can explain how having regulatory agencies that oversee the safety of all Americans, both physical and financial is truly detrimental. No one can explain why it is all right for the government to tell a woman she cannot have an abortion, while at the same time saying it is wrong for the government to tell us what foods we can eat or what drugs we can take or how safe our cars should be.

Anyone can see -- or should be able to see --  that the solutions to the problems we face in this country are not solved by simple platitudes and shouted exhortations. Nor are they solved merely through foxy, down home wisdom, nor the rallying cries of centuries past. The problems that exist now, are problems of our making, constructed by a headlong technological rush into the 21st Century without a consequent social growth. We are still mired in issues that have been extant since recorded human history began: war, disease, pestilence, racism, sexism, poverty, and scarce resources. We continue to tread the same paths as so many of our ancestors have, because we have been unable to uncouple ourselves from the tired philosophies of the past. It is not enough to advance technologically; we must, concurrently, take the advantages technology gives us, and use it to make normative changes that advance us as a society and a species. To do less is to recycle the past, and tinge it with new illogic and ignorance.

If we want change in America, true change, then it starts with us. It starts with deciding to lay down pat answers and party favoritism, and sitting down at the table and seeing where we are at. We must bring all our minds together, and we must take a reasonable look at what we have and what we need, then proceed to map out a strategy for correcting the long-running ills of society. Whatever path it takes, we must be willing to put aside whatever ideas we may have clung to in the past, to give these new ideas a chance to work. Until we are willing to relinquish our grasp on futility, and place our energies toward truth, compassion, and action, the Tea Party and all other parties will simply go down as a continuation of the same treadmill we have been running on since the country's inception. Let us work together, that all might rise.

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