Thursday, July 8, 2010

Common Ground

Last week, a friend responded to what I thought was a rather innocuous statement about wanting the country to "go a little faster" with what I thought was a reactionary, alarmist, tea bagger/Ayn Randian diatribe. This was a shock, to say the least, and judging by how much I've thought about it and replayed it, the whole exchange has me troubled.

My friend wept for me because I sound like I advocate revolution. I don't want an individualistic democracy where citizens pull themselves up by their bootstraps - I want socialism, she said. After all, progressives are really socialists. I want a dictator and loss of freedom. She asked me to explain myself. She wrote, I see the danger you don't see.

Normally I would have discounted such a reply. I would play it off to ignorance and fear. But me and her, we've known each other since our freshman years of high school, I've vacationed with her and her family, and I know she's smart and reasonable. I couldn't discard the reply.

I told her that I'm not calling for revolution. There's an on-going debate over the role the government plays in our lives, and it's the push and pull between the two sides that allows our country to change, adapt, and correct itself. I may not always like the direction it's going, but this is why we have elections. I thought this was a reasonable and even simplistic remark, but even this came off as radical.

This was not just a political debate between friends; rather, it illustrates one of the biggest problems our country seems to have--despite so much common ground and common goals between us, two distinct world views divide us. And because of the corrupting influences of money and power, our leaders are unwilling or impotent to bridge that gap.


Aki Mori said...

It's probably hard for you to adequately respond to her because she is your friend. Her idea that the Obama presidency has ushered in some new, fearful era of reliance on government reliance is phooey. There's nothing new about it. Farmers have always relied on government subsidies. Corporations have benefited from tariffs and lax taxation policies throughout our history. Entire communities in every state rely on unnecessary military bases and factories. Universities rely on federal funding for every conceivable kind of research. The minimum wage. Social security. Medicare. The list goes on and on.

And as for dictatorship and loss of freedom. Please ask her what she thinks of Dick Cheney. Certainly in my lifetime, no one has ever wielded as much unbridled/unchecked power in government as he has. Does she remember how he went so far as to claim that the office of the Vice President was shielded from executive orders because it was part of the legislative branch of government?

August said...

Therein lies my trouble: when I hear this talk about the big bad government, it's not based on reality. It's buzz-words. It's talking around what they really mean. I don't know how to have a debate in good faith when we can't even agree to the same set of facts.

Just means I have to work a little harder...

Aki Mori said...

I've not heard anyone ever mention this, but to be fair, I think Democrats were extremely hostile towards the Reagan administration. It took a very long time after Reagan left office before the conventional views of the Democrats towards Reagan finally had to make way for a more balanced assessment.

Democrats were also always very quick to belittle Bush II. I don't remember much respect that was accorded to him as our President among my more liberal acquaintances.

In some ways, it's the far right's turn to show anger and disrespect.

August said...

Yes - I return to this idea. I wonder, "Was I like this with Bush?" I certainly belittled him, his intellect, and his policies. I was certainly worried about the erosion of civil liberties and the drumbeat to war. And he proved me and my concerns right, many times. But really, he never had a chance with me.

Reagan too - yes I was a kid, but I knew I hated him. He was an evil man, as far as I knew from the way my parents talked about him. (My opinion of him now is slightly more nuanced!)

You're right: this is a two-way street.

Aki Mori said...

Wow. You actually just made me think of a most bizarre area of "common ground" between right and left (as according to me). Namely, I actually never disliked Bush II. I've always thought of him as a basically decent man who was just way in over his head. His critical mistake was surrounding himself with the wrong people--in his case the "neo-cons".

I'm beginning to worry that this is the same with Obama (thus, the common ground). Two years is way too early to judge his presidency, but what worries me the most is he isn't showing any signs of growing into the role of President--none. He is being held captive to an inner circle of elites (whom he selected) who are essentially status quo types. I see no signs of boldness.

I'm sorry to be so harsh. I'm just terribly disappointed (and worried). Thankfully, Obama will almost certainly get a second term, so there will be more time for him to evolve and find a his stride. (And further down the road there is the hope of Hillary.)