Almost daily, I encounter people of different colors, religions, political views, and behaviors. They are ordinary people doing the ordinary tasks of daily living. They laugh. They cry. They grieve. They love. They struggle to care for their families. They risk their lives to protect us from crime and disasters. They defend our nation in horrible wars. They educate our children. They provide care for the sick. The vast majority of these people are hard-working, good-hearted human beings. They are the diverse people who make up the United States of America - a nation so very blessed with unparalleled freedom and liberty.
Conversely, often I encounter another America. This other America is the one which news outlets regularly highlight, filling us - not with hope or patriotism - rather, with negativity, hate, and distrust - traits which are so prevalent today in our nation's capital. For this, I do not blame the news media - they are just the messenger. This other America, seemingly has no relevance to the people it serves - the "common good". This other America is concerned with pettiness and gotcha politics. This other America is on a rapid descent into a putrid world of greed, self-service, and competing (irrelevant ideologies). This other America is supposed to be the core of our national leadership; yet, leadership was absent without leave when those in power had to confront the real world of compromise and negotiation. Leadership in the hollow minds of those in-charge in Washington has become less important than their malignant party or ideological loyalties.
I am reminded of a marvelous and relevant book written by former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma, Mickey Edwards. The book is titled, "The parties versus the people". Edwards pulls no punches as he writes, "The partisan poison that has seeped into American politics - and American governance - is not only eroding belief in the democratic process, it is proving to be a danger to the very idea of participatory self-government. Democracy, after all, is not a spectator sport - it requires active citizen participation - but partisanship, which is not a conflict over principle but a combat between private organizations, each seeking political advantage in creating a system which stirs not confidence but rage."
This other America wherein reason has been supplanted by party interests was not created solely by politicians in Washington. This other America also evolved through the introduction and endurance of entities such as talk radio, Fox News and MSNBC. These partisan mouthpieces regularly confuse name-calling and phony labeling with journalism - so much so that the American public (over time) now mimic these absurdities in regular people-to-people conversations. The consequence of this practice is that reason and intelligence and facts are often ignored in public and private discourse. They are replaced by labels and name-calling. If one person supports welfare reform, he/she is labeled a far right conservative even though that person also espouses a wide variety of moderate points-of-view. On the other hand, if one person supports a Democratic candidate, he/she is labeled a bleeding heart liberal even though that person takes conservative stances on most issues. Labeling has replaced common sense and fairness as the game of the day, regardless of the efficacy of one's argument. Are we to believe that Americans are incapable of holding a wide assortment of differing positions? I will never accept that ridiculous premise.
The American public has every right to expect the president and those in leadership positions in Congress to do the peoples' work of making this a better, safer and stronger nation. Unfortunately, they often fall far short of our expectations. I believe that there are some good people in Washington who want to do the right thing, but they are too often thwarted in their honorable endeavors by the obstructionist actions of vengeful zealots. These zealots continue to denounce all government programs and will not hesitate to block any legislative action whatsoever. If they hate the government so much then they should get the hell out of it. Our government and our people need to reunite. Only then can we return to one very special America.
Bud Morgan lives near Avon Park.