"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
-Abraham Lincoln -
Those words are timeless, and are as true today as they were when pronounced back in our Civil War era. Americans have nearly always had disagreements over political, economic, or foreign policy, but have usually managed to listen to each other long and rationally enough to forge a practical compromise or settle on a mutually agreeable course of action. For all voices must be free to speak, and to be listened to and actually heard if a democracy is to function properly. As the French philosopher Voltaire once said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." He understood this very fundamental necessity more than 200 years ago, and so must we today. All of us share the basic right to express ourselves in word or lifestyle without being personally attacked, ridiculed, or falsely labeled. Our Constitution guarantees us "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." 'Nuff said!
In this modern era, the politics of conservative Republican strategists Lee Atwater and Karl Rove have been very dominant. These are the politics of division, deliberately calculated to pit one group against the other, driving a wedge between people and forcing them to take sides against one another, often on social or religious grounds. They have polarized the electorate and turned us into the DISunited States. Acid-tongued copycats like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Gretchen Carlson, Mary Matalin, and a host of lesser known radio talk show hosts have become virtual attack dogs. quick to scorn and ridicule not only political opponents, but entire categories of people as well. Rather than debate a divergent viewpoint, they usually engage in personal attack on someone or some group. Chip Saltsman's tasteless and pointless song "Barack The Magic Negro" is a perfect example of how low the political right has sunk to ridicule their opponents and signal their unwillingness to cooperate with them for the public good. The political left has not been blameless on this account either. At various times, Jesse Jackson, James Carville, Rosie O'Donnell, Al Franken, and Al Sharpton have also been unnecessarily sharp-tongued, although they have generally been less frequent and utilized less venom in their attacks. The plain and simple fact, though, is that no amount of finger pointing or name calling ever solved a problem. Think about it, people: No one can build something when he's busy punching someone else in the mouth or ducking blows himself. In an all-out fist fight, that which so desperately needs building never comes into being. The American people AND its elected representatives must stop behaving like spoiled little children, out to get and have THEIR way, and ONLY their way at all costs. Such behavior is not mature and civilized; it is immature and savage. Worse yet, it is unproductive and destructive.
Let's examine and talk common sense about a few of these divisive wedge issues:
First, let's talk guns. Many on the left want an all-out ban on handguns and assault weapons, severe restrictions on gun ownership in general, or wish to ban them in inner cities altogether. I am not a gun enthusiast, but a lot of these positions seem a bit strong to me. Many on the right want no restrictions on gun ownership at all. Both extremes are impractical and wrong. In the first place, our Constitution guarantees the right of the people to form militias and forbids the occupation of private property by the armed forces. It does NOT guarantee everyone in the country a right to their own personal machine gun, bazooka, or atom bomb of choice. It is only common sense to supervise and regulate the privilege of personally owning and using a gun, just as it is common sense to supervise and regulate those wishing to own and drive a car. Standards must be set to ensure the safety of the user as well as all around him. Such standards are NOT the same as the state attempting to deny citizens their right to form a militia for their own protection, or the state trying to gain total control over its citizens. Right-wing gun enthusiasts and National Rifle Association members holding this view are fanatically wrong on this issue. Period.
Second, let's talk abortion. This is an issue I believe the state should not even involve itself with other than to ensure the safety of the woman involved. Abortion has been unfortunately occurring for centuries, and will continue to be in the future. It should be neither encouraged, nor forbidden. It is a private and personal matter which must be dealt with by the woman and her mate who are involved. It is a decision open to one's own conscience and religious belief. We do not arrest, imprison, or forcibly prevent people from smoking, drinking too much, or encouraging those around them to smoke or drink, and all of those activities threaten life just as abortion does. I believe churches and counselors have the right to comment on abortion, as a matter of exercising free speech and to provide moral guidance. But for the state to forbid all abortions would result in the same unsanitary and unsafe clandestine coat hanger, back alley techniques engaged in many years ago. That cannot happen. I personally HATE abortion and view it as a legalized form of irresponsible murder for economy or mere convenience. I would never counsel someone to have an abortion, and would instead encourage them to choose adoption or keeping the baby. But I recognize the situation as a matter of individual decision. This stance makes me and all others who share my viewpoint pro-CHOICE. It is a grave injustice and a severely deliberate misstatement to call us pro-ABORTION or "baby killers," as some on the right are prone to do!
Third, let's talk gay rights. We have had gays and lesbians since nearly the beginning of human history. We will ALWAYS have them, like it or not. Get over it. You don't have to like them or be like them. But I don't believe the government should have any say on establishing or prohibiting rights for any person based on their sexual preference. Just as in matters of race and creed, the state should not be used as a means to persecvute or deny gays the same rights everyone else has. Some gay relationships are far more stable and monogamous than heterosexual ones! Why, then, should one's sexual preference be used as a basis for determining whether or not one has hospital visitation rights, property rights, marriage rights, or the right to raise children? Protecting gays from unfair discrimination is NOT endorsing or advocating being gay. It is simply a matter of ensuring equal rights for all. Do we ask the cop who dies protecting us or the soldier on the battlefield whether or not they are gay? Of course not. Does persecuting gays solve any problems? Absolutely not!
Fourth, let's talk religion. Our Constitution guarantees everyone in this country the right to belong, or NOT belong, to a church or religion of their choice. It also provides for the separation of church and state to prohibit the state from establishing a state religion. People can believe in a God or gods, or NOT believe. Yes, our state and its legal code werte founded on Judeo-Christian values, but this is NOT a Judeo-Christian state! Such a government would be a theocracy, and we are a democracy, not a theocracy. Therefore, to deny someone political office, or legal rights, or to label them as evil or suspect because they are not Jewish or Christian is wrong and unconstitutional. Worse yet, it is not even Christian! God Himself gave all people the right to believe or not believe. That is bona-fide Judeo-Christian fact. Who are we, then, to insist and demand that others must be Jewish or Christian or they can't serve in a leadership role? And as far as espousing one's own values is concerned (a favorite prejudice of the right), the Constitution does NOT state that everyone must have the same values. Instead, it provides for and protects freedom and diversity. So this crap about candidates lacking proper values is just intolerant and restrictive crap. On the other hand, a number of those on the left believe that religion should be excluded from all matters relating to the state. In other words, prayer or the display of religious icons in public schools or on government property must be forbidden. These folks also believe that the words "under God" should be removed from our pledge of allegiance, and "so help me God" should be stricken from our courts and presidential Inauguration ceremonies. Since the Constitution provides for the free practice of religion, prohibitions of these religious expressions are an infringement on individual freedom of speech and are therefore unconstitutional, right? You bet!
Think about it, folks: With all the seriously crucial problems facing us today, don't these wedge issues seem like a waste of our time? Shouldn't we instead be concentrating on working TOGETHER to get us all back on a firm footing?
Happy new year, everybody. We stand at this dawning of a new year; a new administration; a new era. We are faced with a myriad of crucial situations which demand sober thought and immediate attention! We can either meet these challenges and pass this test, or fail miserably by sliding into strife and chaos. Let's put the old name-calling and division behind us. Encourage your Congresspersons to abandon rigid ideology and political party obstructionism. Tell them you want them to start COOPERATING or you'll kick their sorry asses out of office! Harp at them non-stop, until they know your voice by heart or can recognize your handwriting or email address. Tell them to LISTEN: To YOU---AND to the opposition! Tell them to talk WITH members of the other party, not just AT them! With committments to COMMUNICATION, CIVILITY, COOPERATION, and PROGRESS, we can achieve ALL of those, plus many other needed and wondrous works. We HAVE to!!!