Thursday, March 27, 2008

America's 21st Century Civil War

When asked about the state of the U.S. economy, Hillary Clinton first takes the opportunity to imply some similarity between John McCain and Herbert Hoover. At the same time, Senator McCain delivers a speech addressing, “Senator Obama's fantasy plan for making us safer." Meanwhile, Barack Obama compares Senator Clinton to Walter Mitty, in responding to her "mistake", in recounting her visit to Bosnia, as First Lady.

I understand that these tactics are common, for providing political leverage but how do they help our nation? None of the three current Presidential Candidates mentioned are perfect but, though their approaches differ, I trust that each of of them actually have hearts to serve our nation. Why, then, do we so consistently hear these sorts of slams while we ALMOST NEVER HEAR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF ANYTHING GOOD IN OPPONENT'S POSITIONS, that would in fact serve the best interests of our nation?

Maybe you agree with John McCain's positions and maybe you don't but he is unarguably a genuine National Hero. The late-night comics seem to be getting a lot of mileage out of repeatedly saying that McCain is "really old." I get a laugh out of it and Senator McCain appears to too but isn't it a shame that this sort of thing masks a greater truth ... that, for a guy who was tortured in the equivalent of a kennel cage for six years, he looks pretty good? Then, he came home to continue to work tirelessly to serve his nation. With a guy like this, wouldn't we be better off if McCain's opponents were courageous enough to embrace the good they see in his positions and build on that? After all, McCain's positions on Government Spending, Border Security, Environment, etc., haven't always been completely in line with his party. Surely, there's something in there that Clinton and Obama can draw on that would add to their strategies.

With Hillary Clinton, its not uncommon to hear about her "unlikeability." Whether you want to have dinner with her regularly or not, you have to admit that she's worked hard to prepare herself to serve and she has, in fact, worked hard in serving. Currently, she gets a lot of criticism for claiming "experience" through her roles as First Lady of Arkansas and then, of the U.S. Perhaps much of that criticism is deserved but, if so, she at least equally deserves consideration of that old adage about the most difficult instrument to play being second-fiddle. And, very obviously, her challenges were even greater, as the result of the "fiddling" of the one she was striving to support. You'd think that a person of her caliber would have some ideas about strengthening our middle class, our families and our schools that could be useful in the plans of her opponents.

Many question Barack Obama's substance and the scrutiny his judgement is currently getting over the church he's associated himself with for nearly 20 years seems legitimate. But the guy seems to have some desirable natural leadership qualities and he's speaking out about a number of issues in our culture that have gone untended for far too long. With his intellect, surely he can contribute to a number of challenges but you've got to admit, he's uniquely qualified to address some cross-cultural matters. Wouldn't the U.S. culture benefit more if Clinton and McCain acknowledged their void in an area that Obama can so richly fill?

Unfortunately, our nation has drifted away from what I'm suggesting. Its a quality that made us great in the first place. Some think of it as Yankee ingenuity. I say its a greater strength that comes from the synergy of the best of our differing ideas. Instead, what we've gotten, for quite some time, is having those who say their purpose is to serve, pitting themselves against each other over any difference they can find. The most remarkable evidence of this is what's known as "The Redstate/Bluestate Divide", that became so obvious with the first Presidential Election of this century and millennium.

When Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel came out with their book, Common Ground - How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America, I was hopeful it could start a groundswell of interest that would turn us back in a more productive direction in this regard. I even dreamed that my Presidential Candidate (now dropped out) would pick up on this and champion the cause. Neither happened and that's a shame because I don't think we're just missing out on doing something good here. I agree with Thomas and Beckel that this is a "...Partisan War That is Destroying America." I think of it as America's 21st Century Civil War. Of course, it doesn't really compare with our 19th Century Civil War but, much as was the case with the circumstances that led to The War Between The States, if these circumstances aren't addressed and turned around, I believe it will continue to lead to our decline, as a great nation.

So what's the solution? I think we should look to that first Civil War for the answer. There was no "groundswell of interest" to turn us back in a more productive direction. Instead, our country split in two ... North and South ... and gunfire broke out "across the aisle" between the two sides. It was the bloodiest war we've ever known. Thankfully, Abraham Lincoln stepped into that breech and proved himself to be one of our nation's greatest heroes. Without Lincoln's courage, its doubtful that our nation would have survived that time. Although the circumstances of the North/South Split differ from those of the Redstate/Bluestate Divide, the results could be as tragic. My hope and prayer with this is that a 21st Century American Hero will rise up and have the courage to step into this "Divide" before it leads to a point of no return in our nation's decline. Does anyone see a true hero like this on the horizon? I guess we'll know when we see one of these, who say their intention is to serve the public, changing the words they use and more importantly, changing their actions to match.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"... the content of their character."

Maybe Barack Obama just wanted to change the subject or maybe he genuinely missed the point. I don’t know. Only he and God know what’s in his heart. I do know that, in his speech today, he didn’t address the main point concerning me in the firestorm of controversy that has arisen in recent days over comments made by the Pastor of the “black church” where Obama has placed his membership for nearly the past 20 years.

As this matter has intensified, it struck me that the definition of my related concern was embodied in the famous words of a former Pastor of what is, arguably, the most prominent “black church” in America. I’m talking about Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and its former Pastor Martin Luther King Junior when he said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” These words planted much needed seeds of change in me, when I was growing up in what was, practically, still a “separate but equal” part of the Midwest. So, what I was looking for from Obama’s speech today had nothing to do with “… color … of skin …” My interest was “… content of … character” … Obama’s character and why his judgment would lead him to associate himself so long-term and so intimately with a church that has advocated and even championed many comments that Obama now condemns. Obama’s speech today addressed none of this.

No doubt, Obama is an excellent speaker and today’s speech was a good speech … about race. In fact, I agree with many of the points he made on this topic. His comment that, “The most segregated hour in American life comes on Sunday morning”, is sadly true. As a man of faith, this has troubled me for quite a long time. But, in context with the matter inciting today’s speech, I’ve wondered if what we’ve seen about Obama’s church over the past few days is typical of a “black church” in America. Again, I don’t know the answer to this question. My experience in this regard is limited. Ironically, I do have experience with a “black church” Obama mentioned in his speech. It’s the one I mentioned earlier … Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. We attended there while visiting Atlanta about four years ago. At the time, we were long-term members of a conservative church in Orange County, California. The congregation there reflected the ethnicity of Orange County i.e. - As of 2005, the African American population was 1.9%. As you might expect, the ethnicity of the congregation at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, on the Sunday we attended, was pretty much opposite of what we were accustomed to. And, I did notice some political comments coming from the pulpit early in the service. I was quietly indignant about this until I thought about the fact that I’d heard political comments come from the pulpit in our Orange County church too. I was only "letting my nose get out of joint” because my political views are more in line with what I was used to hearing “back home.” Beyond that, though, I only knew that I was worshipping with Brothers and Sister, in Christ. The Pastor taught a wonderful lesson from Romans, Chapter 8. And the congregants couldn’t have set a better example of keeping what the Lord said were the most important commandments … Love God with everything you’ve got and show that by loving your fellow man as you love yourself (my paraphrase). I don’t know how the congregation at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church could have done more to make us feel welcome and loved.

So, which is the typical “black church” in America … Obama’s or Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church? I don’t know. Probably, neither. But, its clear that there are alternatives to the “black church” Obama chose, as his, for nearly 20 years. There are many indicators of a person’s character. I think one of the most telling indicators is the others that a person chooses to associate themselves with long-term. Obama did not address this and I see this as showing his character to be very suspect.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Earth's Greatest Democracy ... Unless You Live in Florida or Michigan

The current flap over the seating of Florida's and Michigan's delegates at the national conventions of their respective national political parties makes it seem like an issue that's exclusive to the Democrat Party. That's because the nearly indistinguishable politics of the Left and Lefter Presidential Candidates of that party has resulted in them both scrambling to find some leverage to give themselves a winning advantage. However, this is a much broader topic that merits the interest of Americans of every political stripe.

We touched on this in an earlier posting, entitled "It ain't over ... 'til its Beginning?! ". There, we pointed out the inappropriate impact of the Iowa Caucuses on the slate of Presidential Candidates that voters in other States would get to consider. The key question we posed was, "Why should fewer than 100,000 Iowa Republicans and fewer than 200,000 Iowa Democrats have such sway over the 300 million of us living in the U.S.?" From there, we went on to note that, though we see this as a flawed beginning to the current process, there are many other flaws in the process sorely needing change. What we see as the most flawed part of the process is at the end ... the Electoral College. Our illustration of this came from our former home, Orange County, California. In the 2004 Presidential Election it was the "Reddest County" in the nation and though that "Reddest County" had a population of over 3 million, not one Electoral Vote from California was cast for President Bush.

So, we see this latest flap as just that ... the latest flap ... over Earth's Greatest Democracy not living up to its self-image. Since "majority rule" is a major principle of Democracy, we can't legitimately define ourselves that way if everyone doesn't get to participate equally. And, since the form of government in our Democracy is a Presidential Republic, how is it that political parties are dictating the terms of participation for the voting citizens of sovereign States?

With that said, our perspective is that each State should determine how their respective primaries or caucuses are to be conducted and any political party wanting to participate should simply comply. We do recognize the national interest in and need for conducting this process in an organized manner across the 50 States, though. But that certainly seems attainable. There are a number of reasonable approaches to this, including Time Zone groupings.

Finally, there's the matter of the general election. The Electoral College was meant for a U.S. of a different time. However, the Electoral College emerged out of the wisdom of our Founding Fathers and making the assumption that all that wisdom has expired may be, in itself, unwise. Still, major revision is called for, at the very least. Though no "universally accepted" definition of Democracy exists, surely we can find a far better way to set an example of being what we claim to be ... the Greatest Democracy on the face of the Earth.