Friday, September 11, 2009

The Din of Democracy

It is hard to believe that it has already been eight years since terrorists attacked our nation. It was a most unimaginable and horrific tragedy that killed thousands of innocent people and has left a gaping scar in our hearts.

But on that day, at that moment, our nation instantly came together as one people to mourn our dead and take action. We rose above partisan differences and geographical divides to unite in defense of our country and heal our wounds.

Today our nation remembers that day, that act, the victims and their families. But at the same time many of our leaders and pundits have retreated to their respective corners. They resort to mindless shouting; mudslinging, distortions and lies all for short term political or financial gain. They choose to divide America by attacking their opponents, after all "It's my way or the highway." They do not see good will in those with differing opinions, only malice and a lack of patriotism. They spout irresponsible and preposterous claims of "eugenics" and "he's a Nazi." They play to biases, prejudices and fears. They stoke the flames of hatred.

They include those who called former President George Bush an "idiot" and a "drug dealer," as well as those who say President Barack Obama is a "liar" and charge he is not even a natural born American. The recent furor by some on the right over President Obama's address to students was just as silly as similar protests two decades ago coming from the left directed at a speech to students by the first President George Bush. For goodness sakes, it's the President of the United States. Washington has become one big schoolyard filled with silly taunts and screams, like "The president is trying to control our children!" Or, "They did it to us first, so there!"

For sure we are blessed to live in a country where free speech is a founding principle. But one has to wonder just how appealing the din of American democracy is when heard from across the ocean. Rather than a "beacon of hope" it may seem more like the "battle of the bands." In an effort to get noticed, bloggers, cable pundits and talk show hosts magnify the already disruptive cacophony of criticism and discordant voices coming from the far right and left.

Certainly the clamor and chaos of politics has been very much a part of our democracy since its founding. Divisions have run deep in our nation before, such as leading up to and during the Civil War, the anti-war movement and civil rights era in the sixties and seventies, and during Watergate, to name a few. But our ship of state has always weathered the storm intact and often even stronger. That is my hope today.

Yes we are involved in two wars, we face a health crisis, unemployment is increasing and the deficits are overwhelming. Already our children will inherit an enormous national debt, which most every recent president has contributed to. Despite all the bitter backbiting I am sure that President Obama will sign some health care legislation by the end of the year. And no matter what that legislation calls for the American people will have a say. The beauty of our system of government is that every two years there is a mid-term election, and every four there is a presidential election.

Nonetheless, it is my hope that our elected officials and pundits lower their voices; that they treat fellow citizens with civility and decency; that they carefully listen to each other. Most of all, that their first priority be what is best for all of the American people.

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