March 24, 2010

There are reasonable Republicans with philosophical differences from the Democrats. Cutting through the scare tactics rhetoric, their biggest concern, I believe, about the health care legislation is cost and the impact on the national debt. Putting the historical perspective of the last two administrations aside – when in one we saw improvement of our nation’s fiscal health, and in a second, we were pushed to the brink of disaster- the concern regarding national deficits is a legitimate one. Unfortunately, who is right in that issue will only be proven with the implementation of the legislation just passed, and I certainly understand that from the viewpoint of those who wanted the legislation curtailed, it will be “too late”.

However, that concern regarding fiscal responsibility, energized by the loss of power, has led this reasonable group to follow, like sheep, those members of their party driven by the need for revenge and a belief in power at any cost through any means-and perhaps a self-righteous mindset that borders on divine right that mostly disappeared in the 19th century. To achieve their goals, it appears reasonable Republicans are willing to transfer leadership of their party to the angry, petty, ego-centric , regressive members of the flock that have been able to move a legitimate philosophical difference between states rights and the role of the federal government into an acceptance of any reprehensible action and violence as long as it gets attention, can be justified by their illogical arguments, is accepted as truth and gains support.

This is the group that emerged into public view early in the Clinton administration when we witnessed the beginning of the new “Great Divide” between the two parties. At that point, honor and respect among our government officials began to erode, but to some, was justified because they were strong believers in the “end justifies the means”. These folks recaptured power under the Bush/Cheney administration, felt the pain of “what you give may be given back” as some Democrats mimicked that model set by the rebellious Republicans during the previous administration. However, this third iteration of disrespect visible to us today, upped the stakes to a dangerous level as they unveiled latent philosophies expressed in childish tantrums of racial slurs, power to the states, muskets, revolution, permission to destroy personal property in disagreements, threats of bodily harm and death to those that oppose them, and threats of another Civil War. This is the American way?

At the same time, I can relate to the anxiety felt by those reasonable Republicans whom I think are still buried someplace in this muddy scene. They legitimately believe we are headed in the wrong direction and much fiscal harm will come to us as a country.

I can relate to that sick feeling because, as a student of history with some surface level knowledge of the Middle East, and one that does go on line and search for the facts, I, too, have felt this anxiety. It was nine years ago when the initial ramp-up of public support for another confrontation with Iraq “to finish what George Senior did not get done” was given great impetus by the tragedy of 9/11. At first, I presumed the truth and a sense of reason would prevail to keep the focus on Afghanistan; so I tried to present the “other set of facts” in discussions with friends. Soon those friends followed the lead of the administration and picked up the “unpatriotic” chant to make me feel guilty and be quiet. And quiet I was, but with that same sinking feeling of doom, that I presume rational Republicans feel today, as we raced headway into a war that we track only by the number of Americans that were sacrificed – generally dismissing the impact on their fellow soldiers, the families of veterans and the MILLIONS of innocent Iraqis and citizens of neighboring countries who lost lives, were maimed for life or became refugees because of our actions. And, this does not include the RUN UP of the deficit to unmanageable amounts that has been strongly impacted by an unbudgeted war that is still not done-nor yet proven to be either justified or a disaster.

Believe me I feel no sense of self-righteousness as my worst fears materialized during this past decade. I only regret for the good of our country that those of us who had these premonitions of what was to come, were not able to make our voices heard; did not try harder; and thus our prophesies were fulfilled.

And I felt that sick feeling again this past weekend, as I watched angry dissenters encouraged by Congressmen from the balcony of House as all respect for personal opinion of anyone but themselves were trampled to the ground. And that feeling increased as I learned some members of this group now feel justified to launch a physical attack on Democratic offices, destroying property around the country. I was appalled to learn of threat messages left for various Democrats that supported this first step in health care reform. And my stomach churned as I watched the one-time presidential candidate for the Republican Party in the 2008 election – in what can only be described as a tantrum because he did not get his way again- pout and declare he was through legislating (even though he wants his state to elect him again- go figure)

However, under no circumstances do I think that my personal beliefs are so omnificent that I could act out in the manner we are seeing now, and put our very country at risk. The United States has given its citizens the lives envied by others and been a respected global leader because of our form of government. That government maintains a healthy balance between diametrically opposed parties and provides for disagreements and transfers of power. And it works over the long term – as long as its citizens do not decide that personal satisfaction, wealth, gain, and a need to win as an individual is more important than the common good of the country, and the citizens that reside within it. As we witnessed in the late 1840s-1850s, our country is threatened when one believes one has a right to maintain personal life styles at all costs including slavery, and fights for this right under the banner of states rights.

Many of us feel we are in a time of RESET in our economy – one that has happened because we put personal wealth and importance along with immediate rewards ahead of financial security. Perhaps it is time now, before a civic meltdown begins, to consider a RESET of our political practices as well.

Of course, from my perspective, I think Obama has been trying to do that – but I recognize that the opposing side sees things far differently. And yet, I am not ready to give up and accept that we need to live through yet another period of violence that will tear us apart and weaken our ability to continue to lead ourselves, let alone show leadership in the 21st century global arena. Somehow, someway, we need to engage those reasonable Republicans in meaningful dialogues going forward, so that, together, we can rediscover the path to working towards the common good of the country.

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