© Copyright 2012 by Joel R. Hall – All Rights Reserved
Up until now, I have chosen to remain silent concerning my political views. Knowing how divisive and emotionally charged this topic can become has led me to simply steer clear of it… up until now.
I simply can not remain silent any longer as I watch the political debate in this country grow ever increasingly bitter and partisan leading to our elected federal officials wasting their time squabbling in the most undignified manner over what amounts to the symptoms of a grave disease eating away at our nation while steadfastly avoiding even a hint of addressing the root cause of the disease itself. Washington politicians would have you believe that the pressing issues facing our nation are:
- the budget / national debt
- “defending marriage”
- the war on drugs
- the war on terrorism
- health care
- global climate (It’s a stretch to add this to the list)
Don’t get me wrong. These issues are important and do need to be dealt with, but the deeper problem is much more fundamental, and as long as the deeper problem persists, we will never be able to effectively deal with any of the listed issues. It is this deeper problem that results in a government that actually thrives on perpetuating problems instead of solving them. Our current system actually encourages politicians to muddy the waters, by posturing and grandstanding or by using scare tactics concerning the “ill advised” stance of opponents, in order to hide the fact that the majority of legislation is written, not to promote the good of the common citizen, but rather to protect the economic interests of the most wealthy among us and most especially the wealthiest corporations and industries.
Rarely do you see any debate about the questionable role of political action committees, rampant lobbying, or other organizations that use money to buy influence. Even more rarely do you see any debate about the fundamental role of government or the erosion of our liberties. Most rare of all do you see anyone exhibiting the characteristics of a true leader.
I submit to you that our founding fathers would be appalled at the current state of our federal government. Indeed, many of them are probably spinning in their graves at this very moment. (There is even a joke circulating attributing the autumn 2011 east coast quake to this violent spinning.)
Why is it that no one points out the obvious: the reason there are so many problems and so few solutions coming out of our Federal Government is that the Federal Government is our problem. While many would nod in agreement with this statement, I must make it clear that the intended scope of culprits included under the term “Federal Government” in this statement is not limited to elected officials, appointees, bureaucrats, and civil servants. While these are all certainly included, there is a much larger group that must needs be included as well: the citizens. This is necessary since, under our form of government, the ultimate power of the Federal Government rests solely with the citizens. Harry Truman was wrong. The buck does not stop in the oval office. The buck only stops among the American Citizens that are responsible for not only electing our leaders, but are also responsible for holding those leaders accountable for their actions. So the ultimate blame for the current mess in Washington must be laid wholly at the feet of the entire citizenry.
We only get the government we insist on, and Americans have been sorely lacking in this duty for a long time. This is actually to be expected. Humans have a strong inclination for narrow self interest so that any issue that does not directly and immediately affect an individual will typically be ignored by that individual. This is a mentality that tends to view decisions made at the federal level as involving issues too complex or too distant for the average citizen to even hope to understand, and should, therefore, be left to our “leaders” in Washington. After all, isn’t that what we “pay” them for?
I’m not stating this based on suppositions either. Over my life, I have heard that comment from many different citizens coming from the full range of socioeconomic, cultural, and philosophic backgrounds. This mentality can best be summed up with a statement made to me years ago by a friend: “I don’t have time to keep track of the issues in Washington. It’s everything I can do to simply take care of my own life. That’s why we send those guys to Washington. They take care of the big stuff, so we can take care of ourselves.”
I understand where he was coming from with this statement. Life does have a tendency to feel like a whirlwind blowing us around like leaves. I get it. There is a reason we elect representatives. In fact, his statement is somewhat true. That is why we send them to Washington. The problem with this view of the role of government is that it fails to account for the roles and responsibilities of the citizens intended by the framers of our constitution. They knew that the only way to safeguard the citizens from the abuse of power on the part of the government was to endow the people with the responsibility to hold elected official responsible for their decisions. The problem with this is that the only way we the people can fulfill this responsibility is if we care enough about the issues facing our nation to keep ourselves educated about those issues. Therein is the problem. That simply is not happening in this country.
In the immortal words of Walt Kelly’s cartoon protagonist, Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” We do indeed have the government we deserve. We have allowed our government to overstep the bounds established by our constitution, resulting in an ever tightening restriction of our civil liberties. We have allowed our government to engage in fiscal policy that flies in the face of even the most basic principles of economics. We have failed to reevaluate long standing laws and policies based upon cultural biases existing hundreds of years in the past. We have failed to reevaluate the “business as usual” mentality of the two major political parties. We have allowed our elected officials to enact policies placing themselves into a position where unethical influence is the norm instead of the exception. We have behaved like the proverbial frog that, upon being placed in a pot of cool water over low heat, ends up boiled as the temperature of the water slowly increases.
I, for one, am ready to jump out of the pot. This is our country. This is our government. It’s high time that we the people woke up. It’s high time that we took up our proper role, so long neglected, as the watchdog of our elected officials. More, I believe it is high time that we the people reexamined every single aspect of our government from top to bottom, stem to stern. It’s time to stop trying to treat the symptoms of our nation’s disease, and, instead, address the actual illness. The time is now. Any further delay and we may indeed end up as one big boiled frog.
With this in mind, I am going to write a series of posts on this blog discussing my views on what I believe must be done to reinvent our government. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my opinions. In fact, I suspect some of my readers may find themselves in violent disagreement with my views. Be that as it may, my goal is to provoke thought and discussion, so please feel free to comment, but understand that I will not tolerate rudeness or personal attacks. Please attempt to put your emotions aside and speak to the issues at hand in as logical and objective manner as possible. Any comment that I deem as being rude or which does not address the issue raised in the blog post will be blocked or deleted.
As a warning, let me say in advance that no topic concerning government is off limits. I will specifically address topics that have not been actively debated in this country in many, many years. I do not believe in sacred cow issues. Instead, I believe in examining every aspect of government in the light of what we may have learned in the two hundred thirty plus yeas since our founding fathers drafted the constitution. So buckle your seat belts and get ready for a wild ride.
© Copyright 2012 by Joel R. Hall – All Rights Reserved