United We Stand

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

It’s early on a Tuesday morning in December of 2011, and as usual, my twitter feed is filled with a couple of people debating the pressing issue of the day. Today’s issue is the legitimacy of the Civil War. It did cause me to re-check the calendar again. Yep, it’s still 2011.

151 years ago today, South Carolina became the first of the Southern States to secede from the union. I will not bother to recap the debate I’m observing, nor attempt to explain or defend the reasons that ultimately led to the American Civil War beginning that following April. This will be left to historians and various people who like to debate with tweets during their morning coffee.

Just over one month from now, President Barack Obama will stand before a joint session of Congress and say the following: “The state of our union is strong.” It seems to be the required sentence that Presidents include in the State of the Union address regardless of the strains which currently face the nation, internally or externally.

“Strong” has been a somewhat relative term over the country’s history. Clearly there were severe challenges to the bonds that tied us together during the sixties. It was a time when brother fought brother as the states divided against each other.

The challenges we face today, at least on the surface, are not as severe. But the divisions among us are also not as clearly and neatly defined by geography. Our political process now seeks to divide instead of unite, pitting neighbor against neighbor. We differentiate among race, religion, gender, income, and any other dissimilarity that can be exploited for political purposes.

The presence of technology has been able to bring people together in ways that would have never been envisioned 151 years ago. Cable news now broadcasts 24 hours a day on multiple channels, and the internet connects all people instantly across all continents. Yet instead of unifying us, we seem to be connecting those with like minds while shunning those whose opinions differ from ours.

Those 24 hour news stations now come in various flavors that seem designed to reaffirm rather than inform. The “facts” of news events are generally presented and accepted in the form of spin. Elections are now conducted as if the candidates were participating in a reality TV show. Civic roles and responsibilities take a back seat to attacks and personal scandal. And then we wonder why we end up with many of the elected officials we have. Or why others won’t run and subject themselves to this process.

We blame those we elect for the current state of gridlock in government, but refuse to accept that we still have a representative government. Our government is us. The sharp divide in Washington, at least at some level, reflects a sharp divide that we maintain as a people. There is reason to question if the state of our union really is, as stated, strong.

We have an electorate which refuses to allow substantive cuts to even the most trivial of government programs, but continues to demand tax cuts to starve funds from these programs. Those who call for tax increases are clear and unified on exactly one point: Those tax increases need to be on someone else.

Class warfare is an over-simplified term to explain a basic point. We have become a country that wants things, but we want someone else to pay for them. And the exploitation of this fact is used daily to continue to divide us against ourselves.

We have a pledge to our flag, which is actually a pledge to ourselves as a country. In it, we pledge to be “one nation, under God, indivisible”. Traditionally, this is said with our hand over our heart.

More of us need to take that right hand, and extend it to those with whom we disagree. For if we are to remain a united people with a union that is strong, we must actively seek to remind ourselves why we are similar and better understand our differences.

27 comments

  1. 22bons says:

    Federalism and fences make for good neighbors. The divisiveness will subside and our union will be stronger when we let California be California and Georgia be Georgia.

  2. saltycracker says:

    The handshake was first recorded by the Greeks, signifying no sword. Unearned money has replaced the sword. Would politicians today shake hands with the original intent ?

  3. CobbGOPer says:

    One can disagree with another vehemently in terms of politics and yet still remain close friends. I think you may be overly dramatic. Politics in America has always been like this. Ditch the econ classes and study more history. A short review of the campaign literature from 1802 will show you that what we witness today in our political discourse is simply the historical continuation of arguments we’ve been having with ourselves since the founding of the Republic.

    But I guess you have to have something controversial to write about.

  4. John Konop says:

    Charlie I suggest you send your post to Bill Evelyn. First Ronald Reagan failed his test. Second as you pointed out, we are ALL AMERICANS. Finally many families like mine have people with different political perspective, yet we still love each other and get along.

    Bill Evelyn you should focus on how to play nice in the sandbox.

    …..State Tea Party groups are also encouraging Democrats to target legislators who switched to the Republican party after the 2010 GOP landslide.

    “We are very much against the Democrats who switched to Republicans,” Evelyn said. “The worst thing that can happen is to have a man or woman who was raised with Democrat ideology that just to get their agenda through switches to the Republican party and then the Republican party leadership embraces them as members of the Republican party.”

    Evelyn has conferred with State Democrats about mounting challenges to the party-switchers, such as Rep. Doug McKillip of Athens….

    http://www.gpb.org/news/2011/12/19/tea-party-targets-some-republicans?utm_source=DAILY+NEWS+BRIEFINGS&utm_campaign=6acab5d4b6-December+20%2C+2011&utm_medium=email

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Information age tools and objectives in redistricting are amplifying the influence of the extremes at both ends of the spectrum. It increasingly is paramount to pander to the extremes as much as the rest of a party can stand in a general election. (Perhaps more historically inclined commenters can weigh in on the above.)

      The result increasing is that only 30% of the electorate, all on one side of the divide, are enthusiastic about their representation, the other 30% on that side of the divide hold their nose, and the 40% of the electorate on the other side disapprove of their representation. The deck is stacked against that representation producing lasting results where 60% of it, all on one end of the spectrum, is dissatisfied. (I’m saying 60% in stead of 70% allowing the far extreme 10% being in the hold the nose group.)

      It’s time to change the redistricting system because the pre-eminent consideration is the General Assembly serving up itself and Congress safe seats that preclude comprimise, and representation of a diversity of opinion.

      More competitive districts result in more centrist (is that term as disdained here as much as I perceive moderate to be?) representation. And for what its worth, I’m no expert but I think instant primary runoff balloting would likewise dampen the influence of the extremes.

      PS – A possible symptom of the extremes’ influence within the parties’ may well be a Congress that swings back and forth. Extremes/parties push the envelope on how far from center a candidate can be and win the general (i.e, when hold the nose electrorate of the safe seat party no longer holds their nose and defects), and when small but broad miscalculation occurs, there’s large changeover.

      • saltycracker says:

        We went after this on the redistricting posts and any idea of redistricting by geography, zip codes, cities, trade areas, marketing areas or such that lay in a rational physical proximity was relegated to the penalty box in order to give a “voice” to some section of people. Redistricting to achieve this is difficult as folks just will not stay in “their” place.

        Information technology is having a profound impact on polarization, finding common “birds of a feather” and feeding the perceptions of “fairness”.

        Politicians must balance individualism with communities responsibilities.

        That involves a complete revision in the tax system to stop sorting out the winners and loosers which in turn will minimize lobbyists. That involves govt revenue limited to a % of GDP, spending cuts. That primarily involves a government that regulates & protects while leaving as much as possible to private enterprise. That involves rethinking the risk we transfer from government activities to the taxpayer.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          Redistricting needs to be removed from the direct control of politicans. That won’t eliminates politics from the process, but it’s hard to envision how it could increase the numbers of safe, non-competitive, non-comprimising seats.

    • saltycracker says:

      Harry,

      Close. We are in a state of cultural bankruptcy which, absent some shocking epiphany, will probably lead to financial bankruptcy, most likely many years away.

      Our politicans do not have the will to do what is necessary, leaving it for the future legislators to cry, they didn’t do it, but they know how to save us.

      As for civil war. I doubt that. Riots, burnings, civil unrest, murders, limited freedoms, yes, and a lot of delaying tactics by “stimulating” those that demand unearned fruits.

      Leading to a generation of misery for all but a few oligarchies, an elite class of public workers, crony capitalists and those that serve them. There will always be a few ethical capitalists around, struggling. Stay optimistic and teach yours financial survival tactics.

      • Harry says:

        The knife is a lot closer to the edge than a lot of people can imagine. But you are right…when the debt house of cards does collapse, the country boys (those who are prepared) will survive. Me, I’ll be sleeping with one eye open.

        • benevolus says:

          I’ve often wondered, when the poo hits the fan, who will be superior survivors- the country militia guys or the homeys in the hood.

          • Charlie says:

            I’ve often wondered, even aloud here, why so many who believe the country is beyond hope and wish to accelerate the presumed financial collapse believe what emerges from the ashes will be an exact replica of what they believe the founding fathers wanted in 1776.

              • Calypso says:

                Well, it WILL be zombies. Zombies or vampires, they are both hot commodities right now in books, movies, and TV shows.

            • saltycracker says:

              Charlie,

              1. 1776 can not and does not apply to 2012.
              Absent are Continental Congress visionary leaders and similar demographics.
              2.. Debt is not an infinite game.
              What signs are there that public debt leveraging might long term reverse ?

                    • saltycracker says:

                      As the remark: What signs are there that public debt leveraging might long term reverse ?

                      Even the Keynesians have to be freaking at today’s government approach to redistribute trillions to non-productive individuals, suck up private loses and pile on gov’t employees & entitlements:

                      Keynesian’s idea, the right might not agree with but won’t break us unless the leverage is excessive, is:
                      “……government spending on such things as basic research, public health, education, and infrastructure could help the long-term growth of potential output.”

                    • benevolus says:

                      Speaking of redistribution, this is a recent Newsmax ad/headline:
                      “46% of Those Earning $250,000+ Pay Zero Taxes. Their Secrets Revealed. “

                    • saltycracker says:

                      B,

                      That’s on the revenue side – see my remark above including a need for total revision of the tax code to minimize the winners & loosers…
                      when the rich throw the poor a bone it is a middle rib…..

  5. The only thing I can think of that slows governmnent growth more than ‘gridlock’ is the VETO.

    But your point that mostly we’re all on the same side and should be able to sit and have a beer together at the end of the day reguardless of our political/governance ideologies is well taken.

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