In this era of declining resources, unsustainable growth, global climate change, pollution, poverty, mass extinction and inept government, despondency about the state of the world is understandable. Humankind has set Earth on a cataclysmic course with a dire destiny, and if one listens to political pundits on both sides of the political debate, hopelessness can be overwhelming. The rhetoric has become so frenzied and contentious that working solutions for solving the world’s immense problems seem almost unattainable. Decision makers spend all their time arguing about the methodologies for policy and seem to forget the whole reason for their existence is to resolve problems rather than create discord with their political opponents.
Sadly, what has been lost in the debate is the whole point of the exercise. Politicians now spend the majority of their energies posturing and pontificating in an effort to maintain their positions of power. Even if a politician has a sincere desire to positively affect public policy, his desires are thwarted by the diseased system in which he must operate. A direct correlation between campaign funding and electability means most candidates must spend an inordinate amount of time simply raising money. The majority and easiest money is given by corporations and other private interests. Due to the astronomical costs of running a campaign, candidates happily accept corporate contributions; however, these monies are not without attached strings. Once a corporately-sponsored candidate is in office, he must bow down to the private interest that funded him or risk losing precious campaign funds.
To make matters worse, the institution charged with keeping the public informed has become complicit in the miasma of dysfunction. Media air time is critical for publicity, and the more controversial a candidate’s or pundit’s statements are, the more airtime he will likely get. The resulting media circus is a comedy of the absurd with the most outrageous and extremist viewpoints filling the airwaves, while relevant issues and civil debate are rarely if ever broadcasted. The mainstream media, also owned by the same corporate and private interests that fund political campaigns, thrives on division and strife. Division and strife work conspiratorially to maintain the status quo. As long as both sides are fighting one another, little attention is devoted to changing the system.
The current debate over healthcare is case in point. Rather than debating genuine positive options by studying and assessing the numerous successful healthcare paradigms from across the world, Congress spends its time debating such fantasies as a “government takeover of healthcare,” and geriatric euthanasia, neither of which have anything to do with the various proposals on the table. While our elected representatives get bogged down in the resultant quagmire, the private insurance industry, which currently enjoys a lucrative monopolistic control over our health, laughs all the way to the bank, and they should be happy. Their investments in elected officials have certainly paid off.
Unfortunately, a large proportion of the American population have not had the benefit of a decent education that encourages free and independent thought and simply place too much trust in the very media that serves only its own interests. They believe the absurd suggestion that the healthcare debate is actually about bumping off octogenarians or a potential communist takeover of government. Anybody who supports genuine reform of the status quo is then classified as the embodiment of pure wickedness. Neither side is immune to this phenomenon. The political divisions take hold within the collective psyche as a battle over nothing less than good and evil. The legislature is paralyzed by dysfunction, and the status quo is effectively maintained, a status quo we can all agree (with the exception of multi-millionaire Rush Limbaugh) needs to be changed.
Meanwhile, the “us against them” perpetual mindset pervades the American public that belies a deeper truth. We are more alike than we are different. In reality, we all want the same things. Regardless of how we may disagree on strategies for achieving our collective goals, our first task should be to identify the baseline desires we all share.
We all want to live in a world where poverty and hunger have been eradicated. We want our children to breathe clean air and drink clean water. We believe every person should have access to good, affordable healthcare. We want an economy that produces rewarding and secure jobs that provide a living wage. We do not believe any organism should suffer extinction at human hands. We would like to see all children “welcomed to life” and the number of abortions and teenage and unwanted pregnancies reduced. We want our food to nourish us, not make us sick. Americans believe in religious freedom and are proud of their national heritage. We respect the need to maintain Earth’s resources for future generations. We want to live in a world without war. We cherish the wild places on earth that remind us of our humanity and connection to nature. We all fear for our future and the future of the planet. We want our elected officials to fear the loss of our votes more than they fear the loss of corporate sponsorship.
If anyone doubts we share these common ideals, take the time to talk to someone on the other side of the isle without discussing political ideology. We all share the same core values. We love our families, our country, our gods and our earth. We should not allow political, private and media interests to divide and conquer us thus preventing us from achieving our shared goals.
Once we stop arguing amongst ourselves over petty distractions, we can demand our policy makers do the same. The task is not impossible. Americans have come together time and time again, putting aside differences for the common good.
We say we are the greatest nation on earth, yet we allow ourselves to get emotionally drawn into childish bickering and hold our representatives to a pathetic standard. We should believe our own rhetoric. We are the greatest nation on earth and we should act accordingly. In this new decade, let’s clear the smokescreen of all the nonsensical and emotive distractions and concentrate on our goals. Once the road is cleared of the scrub and brush that litters it, the path is easy to navigate.