Anyone who thinks his or her preferred political party has a corner on truth and goodness, much less morality, is tragically mistaken.
We live, at best, in a compromised world where our choices aren’t always between good and bad, but between–sometimes–the “better of goods,” or perhaps even more often, “the lesser of evils.” Even in America, as “exceptional” as we may be–or at least like to think of ourselves.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in our shared political life.
Such polarized believing and thinking has led, unfortunately, to the hyper-partisanship that continues so sadly, these days, to hold our political process hostage–at most levels of government–but certainly in its state and national expressions. Here in Charleston, this level of dysfunction most notably characterizes our local public school board.
At its best, the democratic republic that is meant to be the United States of America: it requires, inherently, a capacity to compromise. And when one is so convinced of the unquestioned “rightness” of her/his convictions, however deeply held, such compromise becomes, as you may have noticed, imperiled.
As unfortunate as it may be, given the lack of anyone’s omniscience, politics may often even need to trump ideology. The circumstances in which all of what I may want or think I need has to be traded for some of the same, so that others can also get at least as much of what they want or think they need.
Is that weakness or wisdom? The difference between, as Benjamin Franklin is attributed to having once declared, “hanging together,” or “hanging separately?”
Like it our not, anything other seems somehow less than American.
Speaking of “states,” the cliche–”States Rights”–it often seems even more hypocritical than merely amusing. At least when it comes to the dis-connect between government and commerce.
With public education appearing to be what most people seem most defensive about over the supposed sanctity of what is considered “local control.”
As much as folk in Mississippi may protest a cultural or political climate anywhere close to that of Massachusetts, or Kansans, for similar reasons, resent being compared to California, such provincialism seems hardly in play when a new Wal-Mart or Holiday Inn, when any number of nationally-branded automobile dealerships or a Lowe’s or Costco or Target want to move to town.
Surely you’ve noticed, wherever one may find her/himself these days within and across our increasingly mobile national life–as commercially connected as we’ve become–if you’ve seen or shopped at or bought it here, you’ve also likely seen or shopped at or bought the same thing there, wherever “there” may be.
Closer to home, and of even greater economic impact, our Superintendent of Public Education turned down what he claimed was contaminated “federal funding” (as in “strings attached”) for our state’s struggling schools, we South Carolinians–as much as we might espouse a social and political, even religious culture so seemingly different from the Northwest, in general, and Washington state in particular–we nevertheless hardly turned away from the economic boon a new Boeing plant brought to the Palmetto state. In fact, we even paid Boeing (with what are called “incentives”) to move here.
On a lighter note, President George W. Bush may have been the best athlete among our nation’s presidents in recent years–almost as good as his father, a World War II hero, who played baseball at Yale, or the late President Gerald Ford, an All-American football player at Michigan.
At least when it came to “throwing the ceremonial first pitch” at big league baseball game–not necessarily the easiest of things to do. George W. could “bring it.”
What’s so confounding is how someone who can play basketball as well as President Obama can’t seem to throw a baseball from the pitcher’s mound anywhere close to home plate, or keep his bowling ball out of the gutter.
In the sexist era of my youth, we would have said, “Obama throws like a girl.” That is hardly the case these days, however, with the emergence of parity in women’s sports.
More seriously, I’m sure there are those, these days, who have their reasons–however reliable, informed or otherwise–for planning to vote for either Governor Romney or President Obama in this year’s presidential election.
Here, however, are not at least three good reasons for not voting for either.
First, Governor Romney.
1. His wealth. That Romney is the benefactor of family prominence and privilege may, in fact, influence some with respect to how he relates to an apparent majority of others among us from quite different circumstances. And how he amassed his wealth, privately, is a reasonable consideration as well, at least as it might suggest his economic philosophy applied to our nation’s public life.
But in terms of the governor’s personal wealth, per se, consider that if he could become among the wealthiest presidents in American history, he would hardly be alone in that respect. President Washington, the beloved “Father Of Our Country,” was, in his day– with his expansive property holdings of both land and slaves–the wealthiest man in the fledgling nation.
And President Hoover, with whom it would seem Romney’s politics are relatively compatible, was also among the wealthiest of U.S. presidents, having earned his fortune in the mining industry. Two other extremely rich presidents, however–Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, both benefactors of inherited wealth, as well as having also “married money”–their politics were notably less like those of Governor Romney.
2. Whatever anyone may think of Romney’s religion–his being a Mormon–Article 6 of our nation’s Constitution declares that no one is, legally, prohibited from running for public office because of her/his religion, or lack thereof. Public perception or preference aside, religion as a criterion is not a reason–at least a legal one–to not vote for whomever.
3. At least one of the two highly publicized stories which some would claim reflect on the governor’s character. Who hasn’t, over enough years, “grown past” some questionable attitudes or apparent character flaws, even certain bad behavior they may have once exhibited back in high school? In Mr. Romney’s case, this should hardly be held against him today.
A later incident, however, as a young husband and father–it might be considered more revealing. It involved his reported treatment of the family’s dog, while on an extended car-trip vacation with his wife and sons. In this instance, he would seem to have violated a minimally humane treatment of any animal.
Now, for President Obama.
1. Again, his religion: whether the kind of Christian he clearly is (“kind” being the operative word); or even, to some, the Muslim he is just as clearly not, but they claim him to be. Constitutionally at least, this is not a valid reason to not vote for Mr. Obama, anymore than it is, at least legally, a valid reason to not vote for Mr. Romney.
2. I have friends, even adult step-sons-in-law who so glibly announce that “Obama is a socialist.” These same characters also claim to be Christians. Apparently, however, they can’t read–at least the Gospels in the New Testament. For a Christian at least, not voting for President Obama because “he’s a socialist” is not a valid reason to not vote for him. Since Jesus was obviously “a socialist” as well–at least of the kind so many of my friends, including my step-sons-in-law claim the President to be.
3. The suspicion that Mr. Obama was “not born in America” and is therefore disqualified, constitutionally, from being our nation’s President. Granted, Obama’s name, his birth circumstances, his childhood and adolescent life experience–his is notably different from that of many of us. Does that mean, then, as we hear it said: “He’s not one of us–us real Americans?” Is this just another example of the racism, the xenophobia that seems never–pardon the pun–to not “color” the attitude, even the belief of so many toward our President?