Essay

Let’s Get Political; Let Me Hear Your Wisdom Talk!

Yes, this headline is a parody of the vacuous 1981 Olivia Newton John hit song, Let’s Get Physical. And yes, this might be a questionable way to headline the most serious-as-a-heart-attack post I’ve ever attempted to write.

So maybe a better title to this, my gut-reaction to the recent, sickening news coming out of Charlottesville, Virginia would be:

Everything is Questionable so Let’s Question Everything.

Another way to say this is: People! Let’s Get our Heads out of our Ignorant, Self-Righteous, Belligerent Butts and Make it our Civic Duty to Define, Address, and Find Solutions to our Actual Problems! 

(Yes, I’m addressing We the People!)

A friend shared a link to this article on Democracy & Government by Andrew Bacevich called Trump is Not Cause, But Consequence on Facebook. I almost could just link to the article and say, “Read This!”

But almost infers more must be done.

What happened? What can we do? In light of the recent tragedies in Virginia it is clear to me we, I, all of us can and must do more. We have to be better than we have been.

Andrew Bacevich is significantly smarter, better educated, more well-connected, and more politically savvy than I ever will be. He has written an intelligent, wise article on the state of democracy and government. But I’m not simply linking to or reposting his article because I fear far too few citizens will  take the time or expend the effort to read this important, articulate, powerful piece of writing. I am making a plea.

It’s really long article. It requires readers to understand and follow a complex logical argument. It asks us to think deeply about big ideas like the “responsibilities and prerogatives” of our “three-co-equal branches of government,” and “all the habits and precedents that had contributed to empowering the modern American presidency.”

In other words, Andrew Bacevich is asking us as citizens of the United States to claim our rights and live up to our responsibilities as protectors of democracy. For various reasons we haven’t been doing a good enough job of living up to the responsibilities of being We the People.

I won’t enumerate those reasons here, as that’s another whole article. It’s sufficient to say that some of the reasons we fail to be good citizens are our own lazy, complacent, or ignorant fault. Some of the reasons, however, are the fault of people, organizations, parties and governments who, from greedy or self-righteous motives, oppose democratic principals. They have devised systems and implemented controls which constrain our power to be good citizens. Because when we’re good citizens, goodness gains and corruption loses power.

They work hard to take away our power. We need to work harder for what is right and good.

I’d like to summarize and simplify Mr. Bacevich’s excellent article. Hopefully this will encourage you to read it. He writes to explain:

The president of the United States stands for America and represents who we are.
Because our founders didn’t want us to have a king who stands for us and represents who we are, it didn’t used to be this way. Until about 100 years ago, the president was considered to be just a mildly impressive guy doing a fairly important job for a few years. The job of the president was supposed to be no more important than the job of congress and the job of the supreme court.
Then a series of national and international crises came along, which enabled the president to become a more powerful figure. Some of that power was gained by force, but mostly it came about because congress or the courts allowed it.
Hardly anyone contested the shift of power from congress and court to the presidency because, as Mr. Bacevich explains, it turned out to good for the business of “investment banks and multinational corporations, churches and universities, big city newspapers and TV networks, the bloated national security apparatus and both major political parties” to have a president who acts like the world’s most powerful king.
Not only was it good for them, but most ordinary Americans like it, too, when their president (and not any other country’s leader) is generally recognized as “the most powerful person in the universe.” Our president makes us proud to be an American!
Well, until Donald Trump got elected. Nothing like him has ever happened to the White House and the esteemed office of the president of the United States.
“A vulgar, bombastic, thrice-married real-estate tycoon and reality TV host [has become] prophet, moral philosopher, style-setter, interpreter of the prevailing zeitgeist and our chief celebrity?”
A lot of people think this is abominable!
But, says Mr. Bacevich, it’s highly delusional to imagine that things will get any better, or that our massive problems will go away when he is out of office. Because Donald Trump is not the cause of our problems.
Actually, it’s more like this: we have some particular, horrifying problems which, for quite some time we’ve failed to recognize and address and the result of those unaddressed problems is that  “a vulgar, bombastic, thrice-married real-estate tycoon and reality TV host” became POTUS 45.
People didn’t vote for Donald Trump to be President of the United States. They voted against the way the government has not been working to make America a place of liberty and justice for all.
Post-Cold-War policy was not working for the good of America nor of Americans. Instead policy-makers of both parties assisted greedy corporations in their wild rush to acquire more and more wealth by exploiting all the world’s people and resources. They disregarded the ages old wisdom inherent in the philosophy of democracy–that all people everywhere deserve to live in a just and peaceful world. They promoted the pursuit of supremacy and thereby created a culture of division.
And now, we’re one festering mess. Alienation and despair pervade our “society suffering from epidemics of chronic substance abuse, morbid obesity, teen suicide and similar afflictions. Throw in the world’s highest incarceration rate, a seemingly endless appetite for porn, urban school systems mired in permanent crisis and mass shootings that occur with metronomic regularity.”

This is our call to wake up, to take on the responsibility of being we the people. It is time to set aside our fear, our apathy, our ignorance, and our gullibility and accept Mr. Bacevich’s challenge, in whose view, “the point of being an American is to participate in creating a society that strikes a balance between wants and needs, that exists in harmony with nature and the rest of humankind and that is rooted in an agreed upon conception of the common good.”

For concerned citizens, the last portion of Mr. Bacevich’s article lists steps that need be taken to clear away the debris of bad policy and decisions. And then we can work on coming “up with better and truer ideas to serve as a foundation for American politics.”

I hope you’ll join me in this pursuit for a better country, one that makes us proud, for all the right reasons, to be who we are.

So let’s get political. Weigh in, and let me hear your wisdom talk.

Photo credit: Boston Public Library via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

 

Advertisements

15 thoughts on “Let’s Get Political; Let Me Hear Your Wisdom Talk!”

  1. Yup. All of us need to watch less TV and become more active participants in real life here in the United State and here on planet earth. Thank you for writing and sharing this post.

      1. You’re welcome, Will. Thanks for stopping by. I haven’t been very active in the blogosphere these past years–a lot happening in my life. I’m riled up now, however, and my personal life is also slightly more manageable, so hopefully this week I’ll be able to pop over to your blog. If I don’t get too busy with the events leading up to the family reunion I’m hosting this Saturday. (!) Take care — and let’s keep working on Unity, tp the extent that we are each able. It’s really all we’re asked to do, I think, is what we CAN.

  2. “Trump is not the cause but a consequence.” Puts a whole different spin on my incredulous, gap mouthed, eyes glazed over disbelief at the path my friends to the south have taken.
    I found Mr. Basevich’s ideology to be concise, well spoken and so very, very correct BUT
    Although he offered a wonderful ideal, which were it to be initiated, would be a start to reform such a broken, broken system.
    But the question remains WHERE? HOW? and most importantly WHO?
    The rx for resolution is long, hard and harsh. Like a form of chemo to remove the tumour. You have to damn near poison the patient to root out the disease. How do you begin? With what force do you wield the velevet glove on an iron fist?
    Logic? Reason? Cognizant dissonance is strong in those who believe in the false saviour.
    Fire with fire? Hasn’t worked in the past, why would it work now?
    Conversion? That may reach a few but this is an all pervasive thing. The converts will be too few, too late.
    His ten step program describes perfectly the WHAT but not the WHO or WHERE?
    Who begins this program? A seductive, charismatic, enthralling leader who is cultured, versed in diplomacy with a silver tongue and hands calloused by being everyman/woman? Where do you find that person? One who is everything to everybody from the least to the best of you?
    And upon which step do you begin this great conversion? My god the easiest of them is nigh on impossible! To gain concensus among 30 people is a momentous feat worthy of a nobel prize! How do you convince 330+ million?
    Like anything involving humans we can see WHAT has to be done. Committee after committee after committee are struck to study every gd problem ad nauseum but the actual DOING is never addressed. No one wants to take on that mantle. No one wants the responsibility of that calibre of undertaking. Certainly not a politician beholden to Big Business. They know on which side of their bread is buttered and by whom.
    To fix something that broken would require the entirety of Mount Olympus and every other god conceived by homo sapiens.
    It’s certainly an Olympian task which would require such a concerted effort by tens of thousands of people at every level of society that it’s almost impossible to imagine.
    I wish it were easier. I really do. But to that end it has to be done. By someone or many someones. For the sake of our descendants. The question remains how, who and where to start.
    Jeepers! Apologies for the long post!

      1. Hi Jenn!! (Are you THE Jenn Lyons? who went to U of MN?) I appreciate your long post. I’m trying to start a discussion here!

        Answer to your question: Who? You and I, and all the good people who care. There are millions of us. It’s time for WE the PEOPLE to put our convictions into action. Each and every one of us, doing what we are able, to the extent that we are able, constitutes an impressive force of good will and right action.

        When? Starting now.

        How? Step by step. This open forum for discussion is one step. The goal is that our steps will lead to is something like THE SINGING REVOLUTION IN ESTONIA. Let’s collaborate in making a peaceful statement of our unwillingness to continue to support the B.S. coming out of Washington; a vehement insistence that we expect our politicians to represent US–our desires for liberty and justice FOR ALL.

        Watch this:

        And stay in touch!

        1. I’m sorry I’m not THAT Jenn, lol. She sounds like a person well respected.
          No, I’m just a Canuck who can see a country I have a grudging respect for, falling prey to party politic machinations and gradually being led down a path from which there is little hope of return. This partisan divide has become like a cancerous tumour and it needs to be excised before its terminal. Why does being right or left preclude acting together to do what’s right for ALL, not just the party of your choice? It confounds me!
          Not to sound superior but here in Canada 🍁 the right is so far removed from the right in the USA that they would be considered liberal. We don’t have an alt-right that’s as alt as yours. Our far right would be a very, very moderate conservative down there. Probably considered a “snowflake” (oh how I HATE that usage) and our left would be downright socialist.
          That’s the core complaint of my first post. Without some moving to a more center based ideology and realizing they are dealing with real people, not just party politics, I genuinely fear for your country. dRUMPh is feeding that monster daily and it’s growing so strong and all pervasive it is just a matter of time, and not much at that, before it destroys any vestige of co-operation at all, full stop.

          1. Hi, Jenn,

            Not sure why I didn’t see your comment earlier (well, maybe it’s because I’m not spending a lot of time online or blogging these past months!). I sometimes daydream about moving to Canada, as it seems more moderate — plus, all my experiences visiting Canada and with Canadians have been positive! Your comments are very reasoned and sane. And I agree with you.

            I am slightly encouraged by an article I read recently (sorry, don’t know where / when / by whom). The main point was that Trump might be saving democracy by mobilizing people to fight the “tending-toward-genocidal” racism that has always BEEN HERE but went underexposed and all too often ignored. I hope so!

  3. Your post arrived this morning after I’d spent most of yesterday on my first draft of “Writing About Politics” for Wednesday’s blog. It’s one of those polite topics we aren’t supposed to talk about. Yet, as I read your post (the growth of the executive branch over the past seven or eight decades) and thought of mine (the reduction of government regulation over the past four decades and the good it is charged with doing) and then read Mr Bacevich’s article, via the Bill Moyers site, I’ve concluded that we stay off the topic because we know that the average American is woefully undereducated in the ways of their own government. Who can blame them? Where is it taught in schools anymore?

    When I taught English in Kazakhstan, I was privileged to introduce Animal Farm (George Orwell) to my seniors. In it, by the end of the book the leaders (elites) have taken over the schools and now control who gets educated and how. The demise of our own once-excellent public education system is had long been troubling to me. Now even more so.

    Thanks for posting today, Tracy.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Janet. The demise of our own once-excellent public education system should</> be troubling the bejeebers out of everyone with a brain that thinks and a heart that beats for peace and justice.

      You think THEY (those opposed to democracy) didn’t do this on purpose? Of course they know that by creating a largely illiterate populace, who can’t reason it’s way through an intelligent article like Mr Bacvich’s, gives us a culture easily prone to the sway of propaganda. Listen to Karl Roves. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

      Do me a favor, please, and scroll up to read the post by Anonymous, who reveals herself as Jenn Lyons in the comments, and then read my reply. Let’s not sit around complaining any longer. Let’s DO this! I’ll say it again: Each and every one of us people of good will, doing what we are able, to the extent that we are able, constitutes an impressive force of good will and right action.

      1. Thank you for the mention. As a citizen of another country basically goosenecking the train wreck as it’s happening and not being able to look away, I see so many tirades about what ‘should’ be done but not many giving step by step instructions as to the how of it all. It would be refreshing to see a momentous coming together of right, left, center, and every stripe and colour in between, ALL with the intention of showing how strength in numbers and a collated effort across the nation can drown out the weak mewlings of the man child at the helm.
        Jenn Lyons

  4. This is a powerful post, particularly your including the Bacevich article and quote: “the point of being an American is to participate in creating a society that strikes a balance between wants and needs, that exists in harmony with nature and the rest of humankind and that is rooted in an agreed upon conception of the common good.”

    In British Columbia a few weeks ago, one of our hosts queried us subtly about American politics. About our president I said merely, “He needs to go to finishing school.” Of course, we know it goes way deeper than just that: a systemic shift that our precious country needs and deserves. The conundrum: Where to start? How to achieve such an admirable feat?

    Thank you, Tracy Lee, for having the courage to research and publish this. Meanwhile I pray daily for our nation and write blog posts advocating kindness and a civil public discourse.

    1. Thank you for weighing in, Marian. Where to start, indeed? I don’t know how to achieve a systemic shift in a country. I don’t have the experience or education for political rhetoric, and this was my first foray into this kind of writing. I’m not made for political leadership. I do, however, know something about kindness and civility, and I have deep strong feelings.

      I especially value your comments because your words just shook loose a block in my thinking. I got stopped up while working on my next post (I’m trying to post monthly these days), about a book of poems published in 1987. I picked it up thinking I was just going to put all of this political brouhaha out of my mind and focus on poetry, but then the poetry led me right back to the same, important questions. I started writing, and ran into the deep need for a systemic shift, and I felt so powerless I wanted… Just. To. Quit.

      Instead, with your sharing of wisdom (pray for our nation and write … advocating kindness and a civil public discourse), I am encouraged. Thank you for your En – Couragement, for sharing your heart with me.

      As Brené Brown says: “Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”

      You’ll see the post you helped shake out in 4-8 weeks. In the interim, I’m going to post about my public identity shift.

  5. “People didn’t vote for Donald Trump to be President of the United States. They voted against the way the government has not been working to make America a place of liberty and justice for all.” That is how I felt in the last election. It felt like there were no good choices. I spent hours in prayer asking for direction and I kept coming away with the sense that we had done this to ourselves.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s