Tuesday, February 19, 2008

If America Grows Up, The Pols Will Follow!


I'm sure we all remember how as children we lacked the necessary mental acuities to settle our disputes with reasonable dialog that would ultimately lead to a resolute compromise. We often instead settled our philosophical differences by taking part in a slap fight or by spewing a barrage of well thought out names such as butt-face and duty-head. Now that we've grown up into educated, intellectually minded adults, we have graduated to names such as liberal and unpatriotic. The truest truism I ever heard was that intelligent people talk about ideas whereas stupid people talk about other people. You owe it to your country, the world community you're supposed to be a leader of and the billions of people affected by United States policies to think as an intelligent individual, rather than that of a spokesperson for a narrow minded constituency. We the People was meant to be inclusive for all people. When a serious candidate for president of all the people warns a segment of people that they are in grave danger if his opponent is elected, he must abdicate his role as a leader and instead declare his role as an advocate.

I once remember watching a movie called The American President. Michael Douglas portrayed a widowed, liberal president named Andrew Shepherd who was preparing for his re-election campaign against an ultra conservative nominee named Senator Bob Rumson. The senator portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss was willing to viciously attack a president with strong anti-conservative views and even drag his liberal leaning girlfriend into the mix. It seemed the girlfriend, Sydney Ellen Wade played by Annette Benning, once burned an American Flag during a protest rally. Her character posed a most interesting question in the context of the film when she asked the president: "How do you have patience for people who claim they love America, but clearly can't stand Americans?" I've never been able to reconcile that question either. How can a person who clearly represents a loathing of large segments of people that don't share their views on one hand, claim they want to be their president and lead them as well? How does a presidential nominee claim his opponent will in affect commit treason and cowardly relinquish our independence to a comparative handful of zealot terrorists halfway around the world?

In The American President, the fictitious Andrew Shepherd wondered the same and gave what I thought to be a most brilliant response when he said: "For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I've been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren't you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party's most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you're smarter than I am, because I didn't understand it until a few hours ago. America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can't just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the "land of the free". I've known Bob Rumson for years, and I've been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn't get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob's problem isn't that he doesn't get it. Bob's problem is that he can't sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And wave an old photo of the President's girlfriend and you scream about patriotism and you tell them, she's to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call her a whore. Sydney Ellen Wade has done nothing to you, Bob. She has done nothing but put herself through school, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our natural resources. You want a character debate, Bob? You better stick with me, 'cause Sydney Ellen Wade is way out of your league."

You have to remind yourself that this is dialog from a movie and not real. If the only way you can be elected President of the United States is by name calling, making differences of opinions into litmus tests of patriotism, misrepresenting your opponent's positions and by creating and provoking an environment that pits one segment of America against another, you're not about uniting this country for the good of all. You're about fracturing the country for the good of yourself. You're not a president in the mold of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR. You're a dictator in the mold of Hitler, Stalin, bin Laden and George W. Bush. A football coach once in addressing our team said that we only win as individuals when the the team wins as a whole. When you hate your neighbors like you hate your enemies, you may win that battle, but ultimately lose the war. Nobody likes to lose, but if the only way you can win is to hate your opponent more than your opponent hates you; you're a loser. Right now, we have one candidate that's talking about inclusion. That candidate has my vote. That candidate is Barack Obama.......

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