The founding fathers would agree

February 9, 2010

I was raised in a household in which the air was filled with conservative rhetoric. “Lunatic liberal” was my father’s term for progressive thinking. “Socialized medicine” was the pejorative he, a physician, used to describe his dismay at the direction medicine was heading.

Those terms were pronounced loudly at the dinner table more nights than not, loudly and with great disdain. The air was putrid with negativism. Suffocating.

It was the late 1960s. My brother sat, hoping my father wouldn’t see his growing hair hidden in a knit cap. My sister, younger, timid, said nothing. Sometimes I argued with him. But it was futile. Usually I sat, stomach churning, waiting to be excused.

My siblings followed the family party line, while, no surprise, I departed from it.

While I had a corporate life in the traditional business world, I never bought into conservative rhetoric and took a long time to solidify my political views. Decades. And I’m still changing. Learning about Denmark, for example, was a real eye-opener and cause to re-examine some of my opinions.

But one thing hasn’t changed: my visceral reaction to zealotry.

The incivility of the dinner-table soliloquies of my youth remind me very much of the Fox news commentators, so full of hatred and who lie and mislead with impunity. They’re distasteful and I agree with my husband, who insists the channel be turned if he hears Sean Hannity’s voice, which he says makes him nauseous.

Much in the recent State of the Union address resonated with me, but several statements got to the heart of what I think is so very wrong today.

When the President articulately called out media commentators for hot and silly rhetoric, he reflected my own views.

The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there. No wonder there’s so much disappointment.

I wish citizens would turn away. But the popularity of Fox News indicates that so many do not. I think it’s knee-jerk. They fail to think for themselves. To take the time and make the effort to do more than agree with hot rhetoric they haven’t really examined.

From time to time, a young person I know, raised with similar conservative rhetoric, attempts to engage in political discussion. A young zealot who’s bought the party line and believes Sean Hannity is someone to be admired.

I don’t have the heart to attempt a real political discussion with this otherwise intelligent young person. Because to me, politics is not sport. Decisions are being made that affect the lives of real people.

Americans are suffering, something that most young people and especially privileged ones really can not understand in any practical way. Real lives are at stake.

But if you aren’t even 21, haven’t held a single paying job, haven’t supported yourself, haven’t won or lost even a part-time job, how could you possibly understand? If you don’t see a society obligation, you can’t possibly get it . If you don’t come from a heart-place, we can’t talk. If it’s all about making sure you get your piece of the pie, we have nothing to discuss.

You’re right to refer me to the youth movement of the 1960s, which had equal passion. But it was very different. Its source was compassion and caring. Peace and love. Not profit and wealth. It was meant to shake up the status quo. Not ensure kids’ piece of it.

There’s nothing wrong with profit and wealth. As long as it’s not at the expense of an entire society and economy. As we’ve seen only too well in our financial system of late. There’s a balance the right doesn’t want and the left doesn’t know how to promote.

Still, I think we have to remember this:

These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years. They’re the very essence of our democracy.

I am all for discussion. But today’s “debate” is full of malicious falsehood. And people believe it.

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side — a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of — I’m speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators.

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it’s precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it’s sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.

When the President differentiated between “winning” and “leadership,” he was right on.

.…Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.

I wish that were true!

Our political system is a mess. Our economy’s a mess. Our media are a mess. Family structure is a mess.

Time for an overhaul. Even the founding fathers would probably agree that revolution is in order.

Thing is, there’s no one credible to lead it.

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