POLITICS

I am a registered Democrat but only because, in my view, it is the lesser of two evils – but not by much. Both parties have dismal track records on almost every issue you can think of. Both are bought and paid for by lobbyists that represent corporate America who, as we know, rarely has the average citizen’s best interest in mind. They are both slaves to the military establishment in the sense that a thoughtful person cannot even mention possibly cutting the defense budget without being branded a traitor by Fox News and the Right Wing fringe. Politicians know that they have to “play the game” if they are going to be successful and that game revolves exclusively around money.

Those in office have always been a great source of material for comedians, however, the decisions we entrust them with are anything but funny. Often they literally hold our lives and the lives of our loved ones in their hands because they have the ultimate power to send our sons and daughters to die in wars thousands of miles away. This responsibility should not be given lightly. It is important that we try to find individuals with the proper combination of courage and compassion. They must have the intellectual capacity to see problems clearly, but they can never forget that human beings will bear the brunt of their decisions whatever they might be. We must find people on both sides of the aisle who care more about service to humanity than lining their own pockets or constantly trying to quench their thirst for power. Elected officials can affect you and your family in profound ways and yet we think of them as little more than punch lines to the jokes told on late night TV.

Unfortunately, political discourse in this day and age is little more than sound bites, clever lines and slogans designed to break through the noise and grab the attention of the press for one brief moment. There seems to be no real substance or strategies to deal with the complex issues our nation faces. Part of the problem is that politicians do not have the moral conviction to take a stand on anything for fear of offending a particular segment of the electorate. This constant preoccupation with doing only the things that can get you re-elected leads to a crippling lack of action. It is far easier to continually vote against progressive ideas than it is to actually develop innovative approaches that can be thought provoking and that can create the atmosphere of cooperation needed to advance programs that help to solve society’s problems in a just and fair way.

But instead of working together in a spirit of goodwill, we are consistently in a state of gridlock. This is due, in part, because of the extreme positions taken by both sides and the total unwillingness to find any middle ground. One party continually raises taxes destroying the financial futures of average Americans while the other party cuts taxes so severely that critical services, which millions of people depend on, are decimated. Unfortunately, the programs that are eliminated typically affect the most vulnerable among us. Surely there are reasonable areas of compromise that both sides could agree on so that everyone makes some sacrifices but no one has to carry the entire burden.

I work for a non-profit foundation that employs adults with intellectual challenges. About 18 months ago our state government was considering cutting funds to the services that are provided to individuals with a wide variety of disabilities. Even their opportunity to have housing was in danger. The unfairness and insensitivity of the proposed cuts infuriated those of us who work with this population, but it also resonated with average voter because of the overall lack of human compassion that it demonstrated. A broad spectrum of the electorate rose up in defense of those who depend on our society to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve, and consequently the lawmakers backed down and the cuts were not put into place. It was a pure act of democracy for all the right reasons. It clearly showed what individuals can do when they join together for a cause they believe in.

In reality we each have to accept a portion of the blame for the pathetic state of politics in America today. We are responsible for putting politicians into office in two different ways. Obviously we do it by entering the voting booth and casting our ballot, but we also do it by not participating in the electoral process. When we refuse to exercise our right to vote we are giving away our ability to choose and by default we are allowing others to make that choice for us. If we do not take an interest in the policies that affect our nation than what right do we have to complain when the individuals who were voted into office – by a fraction of registered voters – pass legislation that we find objectionable? If we refuse to participate than we are giving up our chance to have any influence or representation. Democracy is a form of government based on action. In the United States we are not forced to live under the rule of a monarch or a dictator. We always have the opportunity to decide our leadership, and when we fail to exercise that right we should not be surprised by the dismal results that are produced.

 

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