Long time readers of the blog will know that, though I have only a passing interest in politics (mostly for the jokes and sex scandals--Larry Craig, I'm looking in your direction), I am a fairly solid Democrat at heart. I blame my grandfather, a party line Democrat, who somehow raised my fairly conservative father in majorly conservative Utah with the belief that the Democrats had it right. Though I've never talked politics with my grandpa in depth, I'm guessing that he'd probably point back to the New Deal and the G.I. bill as evidence for how much good an involved government could do.* That's not to say either he or I are in favor of a socialist government, but in my opinion the Dems do a better job overall with following Biblical injunctions to care for the poor and downtrodden.
Still, I'm open to the idea that others see the world differently. Working in such a conservative part of the country, I'm bombarded every day with messages further to the right than Rush Limbaugh (though rarely in Ann Coulter range). I know there are some sharp divides in governmental philosophy and world view.
But come on. At what point can we stop playing politics--us v. them, red v. blue, Democrat v. Republicans--and all agree that Bush has made a mess of the country. The world, the press, even our own divided government sees Iraq for the mess that it has become. Yet no one in the American public seems to do anything about it.
I put myself in this category. When I was in 7th or 8th grade I did a report on the Chicago Democratic convention of 1968 and was amazed by what I read. It was out of control. It was violent. It was terrible. But it was also a sign of people standing up for something. Now, before you roll your eyes, no, I'm not an idiot. I know that 1968 will be remembered as a terrible year. Violence in Chicago, the assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy, etc. This wasn't a pretty time for America. But there is a message out of all that: the importance of making your voice heard.
In a recent editorial in the New York Times, Frank Rich--speaking of US torture and other war tactics--wrote, "Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name."
Rich suggests that the need is for people to speak out, and I have to wonder, why aren't they? Here's my theory. We've become a culture obsessed with ourselves. Film yourself shooting root beer out your nose and post it on YouTube. Fill your free time by Tivoing and buying DVDs of every tv show out there. Start a blog and rant to the empty ether of the Internet. Entertain yourself! Praise yourself! Love yourself!
That's all well and good. I do it myself. But are we entertaining ourselves into obliviousness of the world around us? Are we praising ourselves at the expense of pointing out bad policy and bad leadership when evidence of it is all around us? Are we loving ourselves out of interaction with the world?
As the magic eightball would say, all signs point to yes. I don't have a magic solution or a list of things you can do to make the world a better place. But I know that if we sit idly by too long, we cannot be surprised if the world that surrounds us is one we do not want or recognize. Differences in political views exist, but so does common ground. This week, make your voice heard. On the environment, on the war, on politics, on something. Maybe you still support Bush and the war. OK, then choose another cause you can fight for. Opportunities to unite and make ourselves heard are all around us. We just have to get off our butts and find them. /rant off/
* Interestingly, my grandfather, who served in the merchant marines, was left out of the G.I. bill, even though merchant marines took higher casualties than a lot of military units. There is a bill before congress right now trying to amend the cold shoulder the merchant marines were given then.
PS. If you made it through that poorly composed and meandering rant, here's your reward. A different kind of rant. At Penn State even.