When Election Day has come and gone next week, who will be the real winners and losers in America? On the national scale, the Presidential winner will face one of the most divided countries in our recent history and a single election will not heal that. It would be a stretch to say we are the "united" states. Is America a better country when our freedoms deeply divide us? Is there anything left that we can agree unites us?
These aren't divisions between red states and blue states. This past year every element of our society has been divided against each other. Divisions by age, income, race, sex, fiscal and social positions. Wedge issues have flamed a class warfare that we have not witnessed in many years and the candidates seem to hold the gas cans and the media is their accomplice.
If you are a "have not" then you are told to blame the "haves." If you are a woman you are told to blame the men. If you're a member of a minority race you are told to blame the majority race. If you believe in self reliance and independence then you blame those who are government dependents for the size and cost of government. If you believe in bigger government then you blame the free market for runaway recklessness that needs to be controlled.
The 17th century French philosopher Alexis Tocqueville's observation that "America is great because America is good" seems to ring hollow. And Winston Churchill's view that "America will always do the right thing after they have tried everything else" is more in doubt today than before. The problem is there is no agreement on what the right thing to do is. Don't expect one election to clarify or answer what that is.
Maybe the way to save America is by trusting Americans. Change will come from one of two places: Our government will attempt to change our lives or our government will let us change our lives. It's the difference between change you can believe in and change that believes in you.
It's restating and reaffirming that we the people are not the servants of government. We must consciously seek to return the public sector to a position of service rather than dominance over the private affairs of life. It should be no surprise that the more our government interferes and attempts to control or regulate our lives, the more dissension and distrust grows within the citizenry.
In his book Keeping the Republic, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels reminds us of the history of that period after the Civil War known as Reconstruction. He explains that "reconstruction did not mean, as it might to modern ears, the physical rebuilding of the war ravaged states. There was no thought at all, nor was there support for, a financial program to restore the South's economic life. Reconstruction meant the rebuilding of the Union. It meant reestablishing the oneness of the nation and redefining the idea of citizenship, most importantly by extending it to people of all races."
This clearly appears to be the task before our nation and its leaders. To restore that sense of national character, identity and pride. And for those who doubt that national leaders such as our President can do this, we should remember Ronald Reagan's proclamation that America would once again be "that shining city on the hill" which is our divine destiny. There were many fine moments of American pride during the Reagan years. One such moment came when he was speaking to a group of Russian students and said: "Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority or government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put on this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer."
What Americans liked about Reagan was that he was solid, tough, offered no compromise or apology for the principals and ideals which he believed gave America its great purpose. And many Americans believe this is what separates America from the rest of the world. If, by standing by the principles of America, Reagan was able to defeat and crush the entire Soviet empire, why can't the leaders of today wipe out a gang of terrorist thugs?
When we, the people, tell our government servants time and again that we don't believe we are better off than four years ago and we don't believe we are heading in the right direction, why aren't we listened to? Who's in charge or, more importantly, who is supposed to be in charge?
The anger and divisiveness in Congress isn't born there. It comes from the people they represent from across the country. And this anger was incited by one side or the other telling us that someone else is to blame for their lot in life. People no longer feel accountable or responsible for their own path in life. It's not the government's fault or those who allege to lead the government. It's our fault. It's our neighbors fault. It's our employers fault. It's the fault of anyone who is different than you. But it certainly isn't you.
Isn't it amazing that after months of campaign strategy and tactics clearly aimed at dividing the country in a countless number of ways, that those elected looked bewildered and frustrated wondering why the sides can't work together and get along better.
What's happening today is what happened over 200 years ago when it took a revolution to stand up for individual liberty and stand up against a government; if it's big enough to give you everything you want then it's also big enough to take everything you have.
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