Friday, December 7, 2012

What Is Wrong With This Country Today

At some point this past year, I had an epiphany.   As the Presidential election grew closer, there was the usual build-up of ads, intense campaigning and ever more-heated debates.  Since this only happens every four years I manage to forget the amount of knowing misrepresentation of facts that goes on, and the underhandedness of the candidates, all in the name of election/re-election to one of the most powerful public offices in the world.  This means I get to experience it anew, just like the first time, and so it hits me yet again how this process deteriorates as Election Day grows closer.

The difference this year, however, is that thanks to Facebook, I was fed a steady daily diet of political commentary from my many friends.  People of all ages and walks of life were endlessly pontificating on all things political.  Suddenly I knew exactly which side of the aisle so many friends sat on.  Occasionally, somebody would post a comment based on an actual fact, but more often than not, the comments were derisive, ill-informed, irresponsible, inflammatory and just plain nasty.

So one night, when I read the third comment (or fourth comment was it? I lost count…) in one evening from one person along the lines of “The president is a dirty liar who hasn’t done a single thing in four years; everything he says is a lie.” – well that’s when I had my epiphany!!

You see, it doesn’t matter who we elect for president: democrat, republican, independent, whatever.  It doesn’t even matter who we elect for Congress.  The problems in this country can never be fixed by someone in higher office because the problem with this country is its people, not its laws.  That’s right: you and me. 

We are a nation that gets to choose its leaders, and fairly regularly.  We each have equal say which basically sums up to the power to elect the leader of the free world.  But with that authority comes awesome responsibility - responsibility to know the facts, understand the data, strive for the greater good, and respect the office.  Somewhere along the way, it stopped being about these noble goals and started being about “Us” and “Them” without even thinking about what may or may not be drawing that line in the first place.  Critical thinking and constructive criticism have been replaced by a schoolyard gang mentality.

Imbibed with this ill-conceived antagonistic mentality, citizens are voting.  And they are voting for senators and representatives and a president.  Well, garbage in, garbage out my friends.  If you have that mindset, you are going to elect some equally close-minded person with questionable motives.  And that person is going to deliver…garbage.

To illustrate my point let’s contrast 21st century politics with 18th century politics.  It took 56 men 17 days to write the Declaration of Independence, and less than 20 men 116 days to write the U.S. Constitution.  These men all came from different countries and unique circumstances; they were still licking their wounds from war, and found themselves in a new country with no rules.  I am sure they all had their own individual ideas about what was the best way to birth this nation and felt strongly at that.  Yet somehow, they managed to sit in a room together, make the tough decisions, compromise a little and then emerge from the room with a document that was well thought out and well written, has stood the test of time and was good enough that it created a solid foundation enabling the rise of a great and prosperous nation.

However in the 21st century, we the people have lost sight of the common goal, any common goal. And so the officials we elect reflect that same ideological aimlessness. Real progress rarely occurs, takes years to happen, and when it does, is often attached to unrelated bills that have no business being a part of the discussion. 

This topic is especially relevant today, December 7th, the 71st anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor.  During WWII, so many Americans fought for our freedom, many even gave their lives.  Don’t we owe it to them to be respectful, be open-minded, ask thoughtful questions and make smart, non-emotive fact-based decisions?  Don’t we owe it to ourselves?  Don’t we?

You see, it will no longer matter who we elect as president.  One man/woman in that job cannot triumph over a congress that was chosen by Americans who don’t have the country’s best interests at heart.

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