Friday, February 03, 2006

In Pursuit of the Public Good

Acoustic Dad has a thoughtful post on the partisanship and division that permeates our culture and prevents us from resolving the threats of our time, and he asks the question, "Will a bi-partisan sense of We The People, ever truly exist?" It seems pretty hopeless at times, but I think its possible if we put aside our individual needs and come together for the public good.

Harvey J. Kaye has an editorial in the Madison Capital Times that shows where we've gone wrong and what we need to do to put our country back on track:

[As]the failure of local, state and federal governments to respond promptly to the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi all too tragically revealed, we have ignored the most important point of the story: that the American Revolution, for all its failings and sins of omission, was fought to create a political and social order radically different from those of the monarchical and aristocratic states of the Old World.

Ironically, even as we have been enthusiastically reading about the Founders, we have been foolishly turning away from their greatest legacy: the idea that government should be dedicated to the pursuit of the public good, not the good of selected families. [Emphasis mine.]

For a generation now, while cutting taxes for the rich and welfare provisions for the neediest, we have allowed our material inequalities to intensify, our social and cultural divisions to widen, our industrial and commercial foundations to weaken, our national and local infrastructures to decay, and our capacities to prepare for and respond to threats to our national security and freedom to decline...

When in the darkest days of the Revolution, Paine wrote, "These are the times that try men's souls," he was neither lamenting nor complaining about the dangers he and his compatriots in Washington's army faced. He was issuing a call to action. And in that spirit as well as to honor the Founders, those who died on 9/11, in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on the Gulf Coast let us, as we undertake the labors of recovery and reconstruction, make this the time that we redeem the most profound meaning of the American Revolution. Let us reaffirm the nation's extraordinary purpose and promise. Let us renew our commitment to cultivating the public good and extending and deepening freedom, equality and democracy.

There is a saying, "A house divided cannot stand." Well, our country has become a divided house, and the partisanship and special interests are responsible for that division. It's not too late to repair the damage to our country though and set an example for the world, for as Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."

UPDATE: Libby - The Impolitic - weighed in on the the question: Will a bi-partisan sense of We The People, ever truly exist? Her post is worth the read, and so are the comments. What about the rest of you? How would you answer this question Midwestern Progressive? Blognonymous? Expatbrian? - who, by the way, has a great post on "Being an American." Or how about an opinion from the right, Bostonian Exile? I know you're on hiatus from blogging, but opinions and ideas from all sides of the political spectrum need to be heard. How about you, Kevin? You gave up your blog, but I'd be honored to let you post your answer here. You work in the political realm and have a unique perspective from both inside and outside the government.

We are one nation and one people - regardless of our political ideologies - so this is an open invitation to anyone reading this to answer the question. Leave a link to your blog or put your answer in the comment section so we can all hear your perspective.

13 comments:

Libby said...

Good post Kathy. We do have the power, the question becomes do we have the will to use it for the betterment of all and not just for our personal benefit?

I think we do, but we've forgotten how to talk to each other. I'm still collecting my thoughts but hope to join in this conversation later today.

Kathy said...

Thanks, Libby. I agree that we have the will, but the problem is that what the majority of us want is out of our hands at this time. A small group of people control this country and do what THEY want - not what the PEOPLE want.

It will take many election cycles and pressure from people to clean up the corruption in Washington and corporate America before meaningful change happens.

I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts. I know we're on the same page!

Kvatch said...

There is a saying, "A house divided cannot stand." Well, our country has become a divided house, and the partisanship and special interests are responsible for that division.

Kathy, sorry for not weighing in on this earlier.

Though I agree that the United States is a "house divided," I don't believe that it has to do solely with special interests and partisanship, unless you define the latter as a fundamentally different vision of America, and I don't.

No, seems to me that the last 25 years have aptly demonstrated that we are in a battle to define history and that battle is tearing America apart. Were the founding father's enlightenment secularists with a profoundly differnt vision for government, or were they godly crusaders seeking to establish a more just system based on Judeo/Christian principles.

The corruption in Washington is a very serious problem, but IMHO not central to the burning question of why America is divided right down the electoral middle with both sides moving in opposite directions.

Kathy said...

Kvatch, I'm not sure where you're going with this: No, seems to me that the last 25 years have aptly demonstrated that we are in a battle to define history and that battle is tearing America apart. Were the founding father's enlightenment secularists with a profoundly differnt vision for government, or were they godly crusaders seeking to establish a more just system based on Judeo/Christian principles.

Are you saying our problems are the result of the differences between secularists and Judeo/Christians? Many of our founding fathers were secularists, but they were also moral and fair. Or are you saying that the religious extremists in society today are seeking to define our place in the world? In either case, people somehow need to find common ground and respect for differences in culture, religion and lifestyle.

How do you think we can resolve the differences?

Kvatch said...

Hmmm...let me see if I can restate:

First I think that the issues of a politically divided America and corruption are unrelated. Corruption divides the elected from the electorate, not the right from the left.

Second, to the extent that partisanship is now the central aspect of political discourse, it is a symptom of division, not the cause of division.

Third, political division I think, stems from two profoundly different viewpoints on what our history tells us, what our Constitution means, and what our values are.

Do I have a solution...not really. I think that the bulk of American history has been an uneasy truce between what I might call "moralists" and "individualists", and interestingly the composition of these two groups has not been stable. Now that truce seems to be breaking down as the moralist group tries to get a permanent upper hand on the individualsits. It begs the question: How can you (re)establish respect for differences (to use your words) or tolerance (to use mine) when the other side feels that respect is a weakness, or worse still evil.

I'll leave it to the readers to decide which side "the other" refers to.

Kvatch said...

Just an addendum: How useless am I? All rhetoric and no solutions. :-) Surprising the even let frogs blog, huh?

Kathy said...

Kvatch, now I understand. I wish there was an easy button we could push to resolve these problems.

By the way, frogs have been on the earth longer than mankind, so they have every right to blog!

Midwestern Progressive said...

"Corruption divides the elected from the electorate, not the right from the left."

That is a very astute observation, and in my view, an entirely accurate one. We know here in IL that political corruption is an entirely bipartisan affair, believe me!

As for the whole coming together thing, I think I'll post about that later this evening. At the moment, I'm inclined to say that there are a number of people on the "right" with whom I'd want no part of coming-together with.

Kvatch said...

That is a very astute observation, and in my view, an entirely accurate one.

Oh stop! Now my head's going to be too big for my lily pad.

Midwestern Progressive said...

Fine, I take it back then, Kvatch. In fact, it is not only not astute, it is not even accurate.

Nope. not astute, and false too.

What ever were you thinking?

Kathy said...

Okay, Midwestern and Kvatch, I have to make a comment about this statement: "Corruption divides the elected from the electorate, not the right from the left."

I agree with that - to a degree. What about the electorate that is blind to corruption in politics and the corporate world? Some people are just destined to be gullible even when the evidence stares them in the face. I sometimes think political parties are counting on those sheep to go along with them no matter what.

Oh well, that's my two cents on that subject.

Midwestern, I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say. I'm not encouraged though. You seem so affable and pleasant most of the time. If you don't want any coming together with some on the right, how will we ever solve the problems?

Midwestern Progressive said...

...how will we ever solve the problems?"

The only way that matters:

By beating them at the ballot box.

Kvatch said...

What ever were you thinking?

Thinking? Gott im Himmel! I'm a frog!