Today's post was originally going to be a long whine about my disorganized life, and how what I call my Adult ADD – or maybe it's the mild bipolar – makes everything ten times harder. Now I think I'll shelve that for a day or two, in honor of the subject of the current political mayhem here in the United States.
It's not easy to know where to start, but one simple truth is both sides of the political spectrum (save the far left/right loons) want what's best for this country. Both want to see it survive and thrive. Both are (generally) patriotic and love their country. The difference is they approach their goals from opposite directions.
Liberals tend to believe in what we call "big government," that is, creating lots of official jobs, each dedicated to a different aspect of their method of governing – leaning toward taking care of the people by direct intervention. Barack Obama is seeking to control more than any Democratic president before him, at least as far as I gather from the many, many articles I've read, and opinions I've heard. And that's at the heart of the current brouhaha in this country. Some love it, and some fear it.
Republicans are the opposite. They like lean, streamlined government with many departments falling under the same umbrella – that is, less official jobs, less governing. This party believes the people can and need to take care of themselves, employing the theory of "personal responsibility." They support capitalism, believing the people should control their own money, rather than the Democratic method of investing it for them in programs devoted to what they perceive as their own well-being.
There are other differences, but these are the basics as I understand them. It's a complicated, emotional and sometimes explosive topic, one you don't always want to bring up when the extended family gets together at the holidays. At various times in my life I've identified with one or the other party, but now I'm so sick of the vitriol coming from both sides I can hardly stand thinking about it. In a perfect world, representatives from each side would sit down at the table, look at each issue, and come to a consensus before making decisions. In reality, no one seems willing to hear others express opposing views, each clinging to his or her "official party line."
Our founding fathers designed our government to have checks and balances, so neither side could have exclusive control. At least in theory. The truth remains the balance swings toward which side has the majority in Congress, and how many can be persuaded to cross party lines when it comes time to vote.
I don't want to know what goes on behind closed doors, how each side persuades the other to lean the opposite direction. How much money changes hands, how much bribery of other kinds, cronyism, and all of that. Special interest groups hold sway, too, lining the pockets of those in power.
I don't believe there's such a thing as a politician who isn't corrupt, nor a politician who's truly in the center, and votes according to the issue and not due to the "suggestion" of bribery from other politicians or the special interest groups. Neither are there politicians who mean to carry through with campaign promises; they break them over and over and over without a qualm.
It makes you wonder what the point of caring truly is. Getting caught up in the political firestorm means aggravation, frustration and blood-pressure raising anger. Most Americans seem to turn their backs on it. I can see their point, but at the same time paying no attention can be a very dangerous thing.
The ideal, again, would be patiently listening to each side, then making decisions somewhere in the middle, making everyone somewhat happy, and no one completely mollified. Most issues don't fall into the black or white category. Most of them are grey, lending themselves to interpretation. But rather than trying to understand what each other is saying, each flings mud at the other, calling names that insult the sensitivities of the "opposing side." Giving in is considered weakness, when in reality it's anything but. Giving up some of your ideas, so the other side may also feel a sense of partial satisfaction, is taking the high road. It's fair and balanced. It would take longer, but pushing bills through quickly can mean disaster.
In pretty much all the recent issues, I can see rational points made by each side. Unfortunately, they can't. I believe in the right of protest, from both sides, but name-calling? That's unfair. Our Constitution says we have the right to care, to speak up and be heard. Who screams the loudest generally wins out. If that group represents the majority, that's how it should be. If it's half the country, ideally the government would go back to the drawing board, producing modifications at least partially satisfying each side.
But that just doesn't happen.
All political systems have flaws. All have problems with corruption, and some even with repression and brutality. But of all the systems in the world, I truly believe the democratic process is the best. Not every decision is perfect. Some come nowhere near, but in the end there is a certain long-term balance between the parties. It's not as fair as it could be, but it's about as fair as it gets.
Our founding fathers put together a Constitution that's simply brilliant. Without knowing what the future would bring, they knew well enough to anticipate lots of dissent. The checks and balances, as well as personal freedoms, were put there in order to help assure the People have some say in how they are governed. It's not fair. It's not perfect. But it's as close as it gets. We have the right to speak up, to protest or applaud, to rally and put pressure on our government. Complete idiots and irrational zealots have the same rights as those who've educated themselves on the issues. Not the most comforting thought, but one that assures every citizen has a voice.
And that voice is our guarantee of freedom, so long as we continue to honor our Constitution and allow dissenting opinions. These are troubled times for our country. More than ever, we need the People to speak up. Ideally, the other side would be respectful, but that's not how mankind works. Not in politics, or in anything else. Me, me, me. Mine, mine, mine. And to hell with you. That's the reality.
Jaded, tired and frustrated, all I can do is watch and see how all this shakes out. I'll do my best to listen to the opinions of each side, difficult though that is, even knowing I'm in the minority of people who try so hard to remain a centrist.
We'll see who yells the loudest, and who "wins." We'll also see what condition the country will be in when we hand it to the next generation, because what we create today is what they'll have to deal with tomorrow.
And so on, and so on, and so on. Until the end of history.