Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Pax Americana or Pox Americana?

I have long puzzled over a conundrum on political discourse having to do with the nature and evolution of interactions. The U.S. political system allows only two parties. (Yeah, yeah. Technically there can be more, but the cards are so stacked against their ability to field candidates meaningfully that it's just lip service.)

I believe that the life blood of successful operation under a two party system is dialogue with resultant compromise. In my youth, I think saw that methodology meaningfully at work in our national legislature. Adlai Stevenson, Dwight Eisenhower and Tip O-Neill lived it. All the hoopla around Gerald Ford's funeral highlighted his ability to work with the other side of the aisle, generate compromise and move legislation forward. In the '80s Newt Gingrich tore that system apart with his assertions that party politics come first. In his view, his party could execute its policies only by obtaining and maintaining the majority thus eliminating the need for compromise. Since then we have become more and more divided along party and social issue lines until we were graced with Mr. Bush's famous line - "You are either for us or against us."

The world is not that black and white. Every social problem presents complex nuances which must be recognized by those who seek solutions and neutralized in order to succesfully implement those solutions.

I am considered a left winger. Over the years my discussions with those of the right wing persuasion have continually become less and less satisfactory because I am met with emotional bashing rather than factual discourse. If we want to talk about whether or not there were WMD in Iraq, lets do it by looking at reports from weapons inspectors, statements of intelligence officers, and even speeches by right wing politicians who - even up to Mr. Bush himself - have admitted that they never existed. Instead, I'm told that I'm unpatriotic for questioning the issue.

If we want to talk about national health care, let's look at cost/benefit analyses, the rise of costs in various sectors of the health care community, the efficiency/inefficiency of Medicare and Medicaid as opposed to other insurance systems, but let's not shut one another down because we think the other guy's choice of political parties is stupid.

It is time we returned to respectful debate and settled differences by achieving compromises we can both live with. Either of us insisting that he either gets his way or walks out cripples our ability to achieve anything. It is no longer about who's right and who's wrong. It's about who gets hurt if we can't get together and work out some solutions, and right now our policies and actions are hurting a great many people in this country and around the world.

I recently received an email from a reader of one of my comments in a chat room discussion on Saddam Hussein. The reader urged me to keep commenting because I was giving her a new perspective on Americans. I don't know where she resides, but she said that her impression was that all Americans are bullies who demand that others agree with them or they will beat them up.

Regardless of political affiliation, it's time to ask whether we want to continue Pox Americana or try to move toward Pax Americana or better yet - Pax lo Mundo.

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