Monday, July 9, 2007

Let's Talk

I got a call the other day from an irate right winger. The local paper printed my blog about Scooter Libby’s sentence commutation and the outing of Valerie Plame. With no introduction other than to tell me his name, my caller jumped right into my face from the start and quickly told me that he understood that I exaggerated things to suit my purposes. Even though I got the sense that this was a decent human being on the line, I didn’t wait to hear what grounds he had for that line, and I hung up on him.

When I called him back about ten minutes later to apologize for cutting him off, we wound up talking for fifteen minutes or so. When I asserted that if we would take the time to explore the issues we would find that we have more in common than we have in dispute, he disagreed, asserting that the best we could do would be to agree to disagree. I know, though, that I am right about this.

We could start off by agreeing that neither of us seeks to sink our nation into a morass of any kind from which it cannot extricate itself; that neither of us wants to bankrupt or otherwise destroy our country; that both of us would don a uniform and tote a gun in defense of our country if necessary; that there are problems extant in the world that are in want of solutions; that the U.S. is usually the most likely source of or leader toward those solutions; that preservation of life of all kinds should be valued above soaring profits; even that peace is a better thing than war; and so many other things that it becomes silly to keep writing them down.

In short, very few of us really differ in our core values – even religion. One man might bow toward Mecca five times a day, and another genuflect and kneel eight or ten times during a mass while another finds spiritual peace in the relationship of line or paddle to water, but all would agree that spiritual peace is of value.

These are the kinds of core issues I try to write about every day. My right wing detractors decry attacks on the Bush administration. I don’t give a flip about George Bush. He can do whatever he wants – except defile my country by spitting on the values upon which it was established as he does on a daily basis. His name could be John Kennedy. I wouldn’t care. If he acted the way George Bush acts, I would be against him. If he were a Democrat, a Communist, a Socialist, or a Green I would still despise his behavior.

Each of us would be wise to pause at least once a day and assess what it is that we are defending, railing against or being apathetic about. i.e. to ask ourselves whether we are reacting to the thing’s form, its effects or its core value. When focused on core values, we are more amenable to negotiations about the means of achieving that value. If we chose to fight to defend the only symbols of that value, we are at risk of letting the value itself become distorted. That is what I think both of our major political parties have done, and that is why I think the true value of democracy has deteriorated so much in this country. It is also why our value to the rest of the world has slipped so much that America is no longer held in high esteem around the globe.

We have become a hollow core surrounded by wildly waved flags and well thumped holy books – whited sepulchers as one well spoken fellow once pointed out.

Ironically, my caller interrupted me while I was reading an article that began with that assumption and went on to provide information that gave me heart. According to Hannah Lobel’s article
Redeeming America: What it Will Take to Win Back the World
, Utne Reader, July-Aug, ’07, a Pew Research Center study released last January showed that 62% of 18 to 25 year olds say the U.S. needs to start listening to its allies and making compromises when necessary. Seth Green, 27 year old co-founder and president of Americans for Informed Democracy, was cited as saying that doesn’t mean foregoing American power; it means reimagining its possibilities.

Now that’s the kind of talk I like to hear. I don’t think my caller would disagree with that goal either. So let’s sit down together and work out how to do it instead of sitting on opposite sides of the aisle shouting invectives at one another.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

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