Sunday, May 2, 2010

End the Hate

Dear Reader,

I believe that today political dialogue has become poisoned with Hate coming from every corner. Whether it is Christian vs Muslim, Democrat vs Republican, Man vs Women, Southerns vs Northerners, Black vs White, Scientist vs Creationist, etc... . The possibilities for divisions are endless.

There will always be issues that divide us. We will always have reason to discuss, debate, argue and harangue each other. These are areas where only through compromise can acceptable paths forward can be found. Compromise is not a bad word. Our country was founded on it. We have to work with people that we disagree with to the betterment of all. That is what it means to live in a democracy.

A Dictatorship can sometime achieve great things quickly. With only one person to be the "decider" there is no reason to compromise or seek consensus. If they see that a road needs to be built, they have it built; if a law is needed they but speak the word and the law is passed; if they see an injustice they speak and justice is done according to their will. They get to win all the arguments and if they are right then everyone else comes around to see that they are wise. If they are wrong they get to see that they have no power to stop the decider. It is important to realize the benefits and costs of such a system.

We live in a democracy because we believe that people given this kind of power will always abuse it in the end. The founding fathers did not get together because they trusted each other and thought that everyone else had great ideas. Some fought like cats and dogs over issues like right to tax, who could vote, who could declare war, would big states or little state have the majority of the power, could one American own another American, and many more. Obviously, these where not petty issues that didn't matter. We revere these people because they put their trust in the one system that continues to work for us today, majority rule.

The American system is based on the idea that the majority of the voters (your opinion doesn't count if you don't vote) get to decide the issues of the day. Small groups of people that shout loudly have never represented the majority. Neither the hippies in the sixties, nor the tea baggers of today represent the majority view. This doesn't mean that they don't have a valuable part to play in democracy but they must understand that they will not get everything they want simply because they shout louder than the other guys. Most of the time best fixes for Americans at any given point are temporary improvements that move us further down the line toward what the majority of us think is a better world.

Take voting. 220 years ago the fact that only white men of property could vote was an acceptable part of our way of life. Slowly our society moved to universal white male voting, then universal male voting (on paper) , then universal citizen voting (on paper), then suppression of the Jim Crow laws. Some people wanted to go for broke from the outset. Some wanted to hold back the tide of popular opinion as it came in. The small minority continued to push and the wisdom of their position spread until enough voters supported each change and progress was made.

My point is that our system works as long as we are willing to come to the table ready to work with the other side. Recently we have had a upsurge of those that would force their idea of America on others by force. It is understandable to be upset with path that America has taken.

Today their is a growing anger by those that see their country changing in ways that they do not like and are ready to use force to force change. For example, Joe Stack made a kamikaze attack on an IRS building ranting about unfair taxes. People peppered his facebook page with praise and called him a hero. A militia group called Hutaree planned to shoot a police officer and then bomb his funeral. Another man shot three police officers "influenced by his racist ideology and belief in anti-government conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled 'one world government.,'" according to a Dept. Of Homeland Security (DHS) report.

So should we be alarmed that in Oklahoma members associated with the Tea Party are talking about forming a "state-sponsored militia" to protect themselves from an "overreaching federal government"? This armed force will not be helpful for debate. A militia is not formed for discussion. There are parallels in history of similar groups forming but not in America, they are stories of Germany before World War 2.

The Nazi's didn't form alone. The Communists formed similar groups that fought them in the streets. I'm sure that if pressed, both sides can form militia groups. A similar DHS report detailed extreme left wing groups organizing as well. We have passionate people on all sides on every issue. This diversity has been a source of strength for us in times of trouble but not if it threatens to pull us apart.

Our country was not founded on the idea of a perfect union, but of a more perfect union. The very statement of a "more" perfect union means that we accept that it is not perfect. It also doesn't promise that it will ever be perfect. Just more perfect than the other unions. The simple truth is that once groups start using armed force to effect legislation we stop being a union at all.

We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. Benjamin Franklin