Thursday, September 9, 2010


‎"Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative." - Kurt Vonnegut
If there can be said to be one overriding reason for the political chaos that seems to grip the United States, it is that political partisanship is the order of the day, and the American citizenry has all but ceded their skepticism to the major political parties. People are very happy to wear party affiliation as some badge of honor, and are more than willing to take up their party's talking points as sword and shield to defend the political turf they claim as theirs.

It was George Washington, in his farewell address to the country when he stepped down as President, who said of political parties:
The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.
He knew from experience, that factions in politics would prevent the fledgling nation from overcoming inertia and making the bold moves that would keep it alive. Any malaise on the part of government would be exploited by foreign nations, and could lead to invasion by a foreign power. The precarious position of America at the time called for unity of purpose.

America is in no less precarious a position now. True, the idea of foreign invasion is fairly laughable, but our vulnerability is not necessarily such an overt one. Our economic power is weakening in the face of foreign competition and cheap labor, our energy supply is at the mercy of foreign powers who can cripple us by cutting off our supplies of oil, our economy is a shambles due to our over-extension of debt and the loss of jobs, and the freedom and liberty of all Americans is under attack by those who would see their brand of "morality" and "values" foisted upon the rest of us.

This is all due to the partisan bickering and sniping that has replaced civil discourse and compromise. It appears to be far more important to both the Democratic and Republican parties to fight over the spoils of democracy, plunging our Republic into stagnation and spiraling debt. It is far too important to maintain leverage, to scrap over every seat in Congress, to be able to try and enforce their agendas, than to govern the country in a spirit of fellowship and good will. It is important for one party to sabotage the President when he/she is of the other party, in hopes of derailing progress and making the President look weak. Procedural tricks and traps are used to stall, delay, or push through legislation, in an attempt to gain the upper hand. It is no longer about legislating, it is no longer about the general welfare, it is about power and who will wield.

Reaching this point is the failure of the citizenry, either through indifference, which causes us not to vote, believing we have no control over the process, or hubris, believing that we have overcome many of the country's social difficulties, or even through ignorance, allowing the major parties to do our thinking for us, lapping up their waves of dissonance and dissent. Relinquishing control of our nation, by shirking our duty as Americans, has led us to a point where we no longer truly control our own nation. We have sold our vote to the highest bidder, to the largest corporation, to the biggest braggarts and liars. Our complicity in our own political slavery is enough to make even the strongest person weep.

We are so removed from the rough-and-tumble of this nation's founding, that perhaps complacence was inevitable. The threat of loss of our newly found and hard-won freedom energized our founders, making them work together toward stabilizing and strengthening our nation. They knew that a central and strong government was going to be essential to hold the fractious colonies together, now that the imminent threat of British domination was removed. The States were going to have to be shepherded, cajoled, and in some cases forced, to maintain their cohesion, which was still new and raw. The Federal government would need broad powers, to ensure each State would treat every American equally, and to hold the Republic together through further potential strife and crises. They could not anticipate every change that would occur, every event that would influence the country, but they knew they had to put systems and rules in place to allow America to weather any potential future storm. It was their hope that common sense and common decency would carry us forward.

We take all of this for granted, now. Rather than populate Congress with representatives who can both represent us and our views, and use their god-given intelligence to do what is best for all Americans, we repeatedly elect the same power-hungry self-aggrandizers to occupy the halls of power. We have turned the election of representatives into the anointing of royalty, the creation of American barons and lords, who are loathe to relinquish their lands and titles back to the commoners. We refuse to exercise the simple act of questioning their accomplishments, of measuring their progress, of holding them up to their claims and comparing them to reality. Rather than determining what is best for ourselves and our fellow citizens, and electing people to carry out what we feel is needed, we let them dictate to us what we believe and think, and applaud them rabidly for their staunchness in the face of those who are looking to "cram things down our throats."

When you go to complain about the state of the nation, it is best to look in the mirror, for you and I and our neighbors and everyone in this country with the appointed responsibility to form a good and working government has had a hand in in it. We must shake off our complacency, we must rise, and we must demand better of our public servants. We cannot be so eager to accept everything they say at face value, and we cannot allow them to become entrenched in their seats, lest we turn them into lords and ourselves into vassals. The blood of the American body politic must occasionally be refreshed from the pool of the citizenry, as decent people stand up to take their hand at guiding the nation, just as the Founding Fathers intended it.

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