Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When In The Course of Human Events...

I voted in the Presidential primary today.  It is my right to do so.  More importantly, it is my responsibility to do so.

Never in all my years have I found it so difficult to get out to vote.  I am sick, sick, sick over the vitriol and histrionics that resonate in politics today.  Statesmanship has been replaced by gamesmanship.  Personal opinions have usurped facts and a malevolent spread of spitefulness has eroded the virtue and value of perspective and point of view. 

I used to love friendly political debate and discussion...even with a level of heat...you know, passion.  I found that by having lively discourse, I learned and evolved as a political being.  That is the great gift of growing older...you never stop learning and teaching...well until recently.

I don't know if we can find the source of the hatred and insidiousness of our political rhetoric in the ashes of 9/11, but it seems to me that is when we became a nation divided...us versus them, rich versus poor,  left versus right...but in the decade plus since that awful day, I have felt like our representatives and to a great extent, the people around me are more interested in being right rather than doing right.

I don't talk about politics outside of my immediate family any more...not since I attend a  PBS based forum on race/ethnicity and history, back in 2008, at which I was characterized as a racist by a young woman who didn't know anything about me except for the fact that I did not vote for Barrack Obama...she did not care to understand my decision...didn't care to know who I did vote for and why...she just knew that because I did not make the same decision as she, I must be racist.  What hurt more than an eager, first time voter making a rash assumption was that in that room among my friends and neighbors, no one disputed her assertion...when I attempted to engage in a civil discussion, she declared I had nothing to say she wanted to hear; as a teacher, a little part of me broke...as a parent...another part was disappointed that a child would be so disrespectful in what was supposed to be a community forum...and as a historian...I began to fear that revisionist and politically correct lenses were skewing politics and civility in such a way that one was either right or wrong.

Somewhere and somehow in the past decade, politics, which is rife with problems became a theater of absolutes.  Long gone are bipartisan actions...compromise is dead.  And the old adage, "Let's agree to disagree", has fallen off the face of the planet.  I am right...you are wrong...that's the sentiment of the times.

George Washington must be rolling in his grave.  In his farewell address, announcing that he would not seek a third term as president, Washington asserted that "the alternate domination of one party over another and coinciding efforts to exact revenge upon their opponents have led to horrible atrocities", and "is itself a frightful despotism".  Washington was telling us, while understanding the fact that it is natural for people to organize and operate within groups like political parties, that every seated government sees opposing political parties as an enemy and has sought to repress them because of their tendency to seek more power  and take revenge on political opponents....so for 231 years, with the advent and evolution of each political party, we have seen the just call to public service morph into absolute power corrupting absolutely. 

Instead of a country of, by and for the people, we are a country of, by and for Super PACS, entitlements and too many people screaming, 'what's in it for me?"

Tip O'Neill once wrote, "All politics is local."  I think he meant that to freely and thoughtfully govern, public servants should  look from whence they came for the needs, necessity and direction of those asking to be governed.  Today it appears Alexander Hamilton's vision of the elected elite knowing what is best for the people is coming to light again...and this sentiment knows no party, but is the efflucence of many career politicians.

What else strikes me as painful during these times is the broad brush of "labels" that people use to characterize political opinion...if that jackass Rush Limbaugh makes a horrific and hurtful statement on his radio show, he speaks for all conservatives...he doesn't.  There is plenty of idiocy and asinine behavior all around and how you align yourself politically need not be a damnation of one's own personal character.   

I have been a student of politics and history most of my life...it is a passion.  And, as a reflection and result of how I was taught, I have found a spot on the political spectrum...and much like an octopus on roller skates, I find myself with feet all over the place when it comes to different issues...but mostly, I find myself in a new place on the spectrum as my family's needs and circumstances and my own person changes.

When it comes down to it, my political views started with a faith based lesson...if you give a man a fish, he eats for a day...if you teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime...the goal is to see that no one is hungry.

So, I voted today...and as so many people point out...if you don't vote, don't complain...so I guess I have a license to whine for a while...

To people who are firm in their beliefs, convictions, causes...exercise your right to vote...each vote does count.  Be grateful to live in a country that grants this exercise of freedom.  Heed President Washington and don't condemn a person because we have become ensconced in this web of political labels...nothing is absolute.  Don't hate so much that you cannot hear what other people are saying...don't become so inflexible that growth stops...sometimes we have to walk before we can run...sometimes the common good needs to be addressed before personal liberty can be exercised...be patient, be productive... do the right thing...and do not measure a person until you have walked a mile in her shoes.

And...let's demand that politicians stop their sandbox squalling and stand up, lead and serve.