America

The Halloweening of Politics

The Halloweening of Politics

Politics today is a game of tricks and treats. Everyone seems to have a trick or a gimmick – or want to believe in a trick or a gimmick – and everyone wants a treat – something for nothing. More

We Get What We Elect

Democracy. We all have views. We all have a voice. We all have a vote.

Representative Democracy. We elect people to represent our views, to speak our voice, to cast our vote.

But something is not working. Our government is broken. Congress cannot get anything done. Our leaders are not leading. The solution is less government/more government; less spending/more spending; less rules/more rules, for us/for government. The answer is simple, if only …

And there is the problem. In this age of instant gratification, one-click media, and slogans and shouting, we have forgotten that democracy takes work. It was always difficult; now it’s even harder.

Much attention is being paid these days to the polarization of our political processes – from the effect of the Tea Party on the Republicans to the effect of the Liberals on the Democrats. We are not given moderate choices, so the argument goes. We cannot elect the thoughtful representatives we want, because we aren’t given the opportunity. But this, too, is an oversimplification. Democracy is about us – about We, The People – and if we don’t do the hard work, we surrender our Democracy to the Shouters and the Oversimplifiers. And then we get what we have elected.

Democracy requires respect for each other. We cannot all always be right. We cannot all prevail all of the time. Sometimes, we must each be a follower – and sometimes our elected leaders must be, as well.

Democracy requires conversation, not shouting. The Silent Majority must speak out, respectfully. We must all use our voices, constructively. We must converse with people with whom we disagree.

Democracy requires partnership, not just collaboration or compromise. We all have a stake in the outcome. Forcing one’s views or positions on others is inherently undemocratic.

Democracy requires a respect for knowledge. The right to express our opinion does not make our opinion right. Expertise and experience must be valued. The dumbing down of the conversation results in the dumbing down of our society.

We must put aside our labels. We must, in our own way, be the people who we want our democratic leaders to be. We must give voice to the thoughtful conversation that we want from our leaders. We must ourselves act the way we want our political process to be and our political leaders to represent.

There is no other way; there is no alternative. After all, that’s what Democracy is all about.

Killing Osama Bin Laden’s Legacy

A friend of mine was driving with his 9-year old daughter, listening to the news about Osama bin Laden’s death on the radio, when this exceptionally precocious girl said: “What a tragedy that we had to kill someone to fix a problem.” Out of the mouths of babes.

Much has been written about the death of bin Laden and what it means for al Qaeda, about the possibility of retaliation and the sense of closure for the families of those who died on 9/11/2001, and about how the U.S. action was justified and justice was served. But having learned about bin Laden’s death on the 60th anniversary of the day that we learned that Adolf Hitler was dead, it’s worthwhile to take a moment to think about some broader issues, as well.

Like Hitler before him, bin Laden promoted superiority (the superiority of his religion, his ethnicity, and his viewpoint) when, in fact, all he really demonstrated was hatred and bigotry. Bin Laden personified death and destruction, and in a way that wise 9-year old girl was right. It is a tragedy that we had to resort to bin Laden’s tactics to rid the world of his evil presence. But, there is something else that we can do about his ideas. We can reject them, more forcefully and more publicly than ever before.

Civility, respect, and tolerance were bin Laden’s real enemies, not the U.S. or the Western World. Knowledge and freedom for all, men and women alike, were bin Laden’s greatest fears. Dividing and labeling people were his tactics. Ignorance was his kingdom.

What kind of world would bin Laden hate the most? Not just a modern world, but also a world in which his ideas, his values, his beliefs, and his tactics are rejected. A world that lives in peace, harmony, and tolerance. A world in which we put aside our labels and our prejudices, and we respect the views of others, even if we do not always agree with them.

You and I can reject all that bin Laden was and represented. You and I can be all that bin Laden was not. You and I can be friends and colleagues. You and I can be compassionate and caring. You and I can be Devout Citizens of the World.