Friday, August 7, 2015

Go Go Go Political Discourse!!!

                So politics, yeah, why not?  I love an intelligent conversation about the pressing issues of our modern age. It thrills me to engage in fluid conversations about the politics and policies of American  government. It’s just so bad-ass. I mean it is. I love it when I get to talk to people that are really passionate about their well-grounded and informed opinions. It’s just amazing to watch the fire in their eyes dance about as they discuss the issues that really matter to them and what they hope can be achieved through coherent political debate.

            Unfortunately I didn’t see much of that last night during the Republican Presidential Debates.  At least the Prime Time debate, I didn’t see the early debate with the candidates that didn’t make the cut for the big person stage. I did see a lot of ego run amok and a lot of single-mindedness from the “made the cut crew”. Perhaps single-mindedness isn’t the right term; I think myopic is probably apt.

             I worry about political belief structures founded in absolutes. I worry about potential leaders that allege to hear the voice of the people yet choose to ignore it because it may clash with their personal belief structure. As an elected official, in my opinion, you have to leave your personal beliefs at the door and take up the mantle of your constituents. You become the embodiment of the people as an elected official. Your own beliefs are irrelevant to the will of the majority of the people you represent.  

            This is not saying you should abandon your principals or ethics all together. You can hold fast against the lunatics that want to make the Easter Bunny an Alderman or Sheriff. You can tell the difference between a disastrous powder keg and a pony keg.  But you must give up your individuality as the voice for the collective that elected you to speak for them.  That is the essence of a representational government in a Republic. You are part of the Body Politic, not some outsider, looking in with your own political agenda.

            Last night’s first Republican debate made me wonder what world these men want to take us back to. I don’t know if they realize that the Eisenhower Era is over and has been for a long time. That was when the United States, post WWII, was providing 90% of the Worlds goods. The rest of the planet was essentially devastated by war. Of course the U.S. would be profitable! It was indeed a golden age of American prosperity, but those days are gone. Globalization is the future. We’re part of a larger picture now and not the central cog in the world’s machinery. I don’t think these candidates realize that. We can’t simply revert to a Pre-WWI mentality of Nationalism without Global involvement. We’re involved. We can’t go back in time and change it. I wouldn’t want to either. We’ve all seen what happens if we withdraw from the world thanks to such fine films like Escape from New York and Escape from L. A.

 God doesn’t care who is President. Seriously, an omnipotent being from the ethereal fog cares who is driving the wheel of America? He has as much interest in who is in charge of the U.S. much like we have as much interest in which Ant is going to be queen.  I suggest we leave the Lord out of politics as much as possible. I’m a firm believer in the Separation of Church and State. I consider it one of the most important parts of our Government. No religion can claim any dominance over the American system thanks to that rule.
            Thomas Jefferson once wrote, in response to a request that Baptists be given the right to declare themselves as the Religion of the United States, said:

            “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”

In essence saying, keep your personal religious opinions at home, we’re not a nation of a single religion and will never make a law that says we are. So any politician that says that God guides his political moral compass or Religion is his guiding light toward government decisions or scares you into thinking that some “Evil Religion” is coming to get you, is not acting in the best interest of the American people with a diverse set of religious beliefs. I don’t let my personal religious beliefs guide or influence what I do at my job. I sit at my cube and make decisions based on logic and the facts at hand, without wondering what Jesus would do or what Scripture says.

Believe what you like, just leave it at home. (Whew, that was a bit… let me catch my breath…) I’m also skipping the blatant misogyny of the candidates last night. That’s too much!

I had hoped, as I always do, to hear the voice of sincere reason in at least one of the Republican candidates last night. I heard a lot of misdirection from facts, a lot of blame, a lot of issues regarding how terrible America is right now. I heard a lot about how this country is on a collision course with damnation, or epic financial collapse, or that we’re about to be over-run with the most vile of criminals and morally ambiguous transgender soldiers.   But I ride the train most days to work. I see all the people around me and I just don’t see it, this suspicion about the person next to me. It’s possible they believe in something I don’t and vice-versa, but it doesn’t stop the train from moving forward. We both have to get to work and try to provide for ourselves and do what we think is right for our community. I’m not afraid of them. I’m pretty sure they’re not afraid of me.

I had a conversation last Saturday with a young woman who is a hard-core Republican. I want to stress the word, “Conversation”. We sat and talked about the differences in our opinions and the conversation was pleasant, without wild accusations, without blame or insult. She listened to me and I listened to her. It only heightened the awareness that we all just want to feel secure in this boiling melting pot of the world. We both want to leave the world a little better than we found it, we just disagree on how to get there, but we could remain rational.

With a little hope, that short conversation in a bar on an early Saturday evening could be the seed of which a new openness to reason-ability and respect starts to emerge. I would hope that the candidates running for the Republican nomination can take a page from that and learn that not only are you a voice for your constituents, you’re also their ears. 

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