Sunday, January 13, 2008
LACK OF CONSENSUS AND THE 2008 ELECTION
Americans lack consensus. A society is whole when its people share values, ideals and purpose. It is obvious from the political campaigning that such a consensus is lacking in the U.S. And, while the job of a good politician is to build consensus, all of the candidates are facing one hell of a job.
Once upon a time there was a nation that was formed because its people shared a common vision. They wanted to build a country based upon freedom, liberty and justice for all. At least that was the common wisdom even though the reality greatly lagged behind the dream. That nation, with its people sharing a common goal, became one of the greatest and most powerful nations on earth. It has had its moments. When values were in conflict, the nation experienced internal conflict. It suffered a civil war, fought in the streets for true freedom, equality and justice. But it managed to stay together. It battled throughout the world to help others gain or keep their freedoms. Because of its resolve, it almost always prevailed.
This nation welcomed diversity. It opened it arms and its heart to those of foreign lands to come and share in its vision. People helped people and the mix of cultures and the freedom of expression enabled this nation to grow, prosper and to lead. One of its great leaders said that a “nation divided cannot stand” and over time itself held together and stood proud in the gathering of nations. Its people demanded excellence of its leaders and if the leaders did not represent their will. They “threw the rascals out.”
To an extent, this nation has been somewhat of a myth. It was not perfect, newcomers were not always welcomed, freedoms were not really for all and its motives in dealing with others were certainly suspect. However, regardless of its imperfections, everyone still believed in its basic founding principles.
What has changed? Do we still believe in basic freedoms? Have we not allowed massive government intrusion into our lives? Do we still welcome the weak, the poor and the hungry? Do we still accept new cultures and seek out their strengths to add to our own. Instead of helping others do we now look to government to solve all of our problems? Are we one voice on the economy, health care, the environment, justice, foreign policy, education and basic rights and liberties for all?
We have come to believe that “others” will solve our problems and we have given others the responsibility to do so. In that process, we have lost freedoms and our basic values. In the upcoming elections we look to the candidates to see who have the best “programs” to alleviate our suffering. We look for the quick fix while failing to see that only we can fix ourselves. Obama, Clinton, McCain and others cannot solve our problems. Every time we look to others to do so, we end up disappointed. If we really wanted universal health care; if we really wanted to lead the world in saving the environment; if we really wanted our children to be able to read, write and think; if we really wanted to feed and house the poor, there is no force on this planet that would stop us. Our politicians have debated and promised resolve on these issues for decades and yet they still persist.
It is our lack of consensus and unity of thought and purpose that prevents the resolution of the issues that concern us. One merely has to look at recent events to see that simply changing politicians and political party domination does not result in the solution and resolution of the issues that confront this country. While the inner chambers of our system bicker and while we, as the people, lack a shared dream, the world is moving past us. Regardless of what you read, it is not President Bush that is getting us into all kinds of trouble. And, regardless of what they say, it will not be Clinton, Obama, McCain or Romney that will change our standing in the world. It is we, the people, who must make those tough decisions to once again lead the world into a new era. It is we, the people who must find a common dream and present that dream to the world. While is may be convenient to blame our politicians for all that ails us, it is really each of us who must take the responsibility for the ways we interact with each other and the rest of the world.
Regardless of who wins in 2008, do not expect miracles unless we all decide the kinds of miracles we would like to see manifest.