Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What We Do Now

To the victors, the spoils, and it is the victorious who write the history in the short term. In the long term, from the perspective of clear hindsight and a dash of imagination, the true story only reveals itself in fragments. The issues of the last decade in America -- and their repercussions -- are still as fresh as newly fallen snow; until the thaw comes, the truth of what happened and why will always be just a few irregular objects poking up through the snow. Eventually the reality will be exposed, bare soil and sere landscape etched with the tracks of a society struggling to find its way.

So, in Congress, the Republicans are still celebrating their “victory” in the general election, making vibrant declarations of how their obstructionism and reticence will now be taken to new levels, and how cooperation with the Democrats seems doubtful. The truth of the matter lies buried, escaping their notice. No mandate was the election, except to say to Congress: “There – you each have a chamber. Now, cooperate!” For the power of the House, the junior body, more prone to excess and boisterousness, is mitigated by the staid and staunch thoughtfulness of the Senate, the senior body. With Democrats still controlling the Senate, and partisan rancor high, this will lead to a stacking of bodies at the door, as Republican legislation dies like the over-matched defenders of The Alamo.

What do we do then? If we keep to the American way of recent decades, we will cluck and chuckle and ignore the goings-on in Washington, D.C., until once more we will be called upon to elect a President. Then the hyperbole and hypocrisy will fly, and we will side the artist who portrays his or her foes as the darker, more evil or incompetent. There will be a flood of money from powerful organizations, seeking to subvert the American will, and elect those who will serve them well. They will pull the strings on their puppets, who will squeak out the usual torrent of talking points, and truth will be left to lie in the snow.


This moment in time gives us an opportunity to reassert the power, guaranteed to us by the Constitution, that we have been so eager to give away in the preceding decades. We might well take this opportunity to turn aside the waves of partisanship and bickering and game-playing and pork that are the results of modern politics in our nation's capitol. We could hold those elected previously, and those seeking election, to a higher standard, not of perfection, but of morality and justice. We might be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, casting off the undesirable bits of the major parties, and giving more independent voices a chance to run the show. We have it in our hands to being about the change we were so eager for in 2008, but only if we're willing to use that power and wisely at that. For it means closing our eyes and ears to the siren call of the thirty-second negative ad. It means putting aside campaign literature, attending rallies, and asking tough questions. It means using our intellects and not our emotions.

Perhaps it is too much to ask a nation to continue to have the same zest for its freedom and independence as it did in the era when that freedom and liberty were not a given, and had to be fought for with tenacity, bravery, and sacrifice. Perhaps those deprived of true freedom are the only ones who know the power that extends from their hand to the lever in the voting booth. Perhaps we've had it too good for too long, and feel that our country is so well established that it doesn't require our attention anymore. Whatever the case, we have left the country in the hands of puppet masters and sycophants, ceding control to forces we cannot often see and certainly cannot manipulate. Our disengagement from the political process and our need to put party ahead of common sense, lead us to this place. The snow covers over our mistakes for now, but the snow will not last forever. Some day, someone will see the ground, and read the tracks, and realize that we, the citizens of the United States, gave up our freedom and liberty without much of a fight.

Is this the last generation that will have the chance to halt the teetering of our nation near the abyss? Only time may ultimately tell, but we can no longer concern ourselves with what may come; it is more important that we focus on how we got here and begin to bend the sheets against the wind, forcing our boat on a course away from the inexorable tide that threatens to dash it against the rocks. Every hand is needed to make this correction, and no American is immune from the effects if we fail to make it so. What we do now to rescue our nation, may prove to be the most import work done in over two hundred years.

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