I, like most Americans, subscribe to the notion that kingdoms, fiefdoms, oligarchies, dictatorships – benevolent or otherwise – are not good ideas when it comes to creating a free society and governing an empowered and educated group of people. And, like most Americans, I cherish freedom and education. On the other hand, as anyone who has visited Tallahassee or Washington, D.C. or who has casually observed any election cycle can tell you, our current political system and the short-term divisive thinking behind it is dysfunctional and unsustainable.
We are in a place and time in which we can no longer allow the policies and values of our country to be driven by politicians with supersized egos whose primary agenda is election or re-election. And, we are at a point in our evolution where we should have discovered the end does not justify the means. We need courageous thought leaders who could take or leave the job, but who have a vision for our nation, our state, our cities and our communities.
Whoever we send to Washington needs to have a clear mandate to create solutions. Solutions are not getting the other party out of office. Solutions are not frustrating the legislative agenda of the other side of the aisle. Solutions are not spending half of a term raising re-election funds and supporting what is politically expedient to round up the most funds from generous millionaires. Solutions are not cute sound bites and caustic “gotchas.”
We have some of the best educated minds in the world. We have clear problems – many of which are now dire crises locally and globally. Playground antics are best left for third graders. The time is now to demand accountability, maturity and sensibility.
Until we require our politicians to end the fear mongering, the vilification of each other and other petty nonsense, we are all stuck on that proverbial bridge to nowhere. Until we insist that politicians develop and institute policies that reflect our collective values, rather than bilking a system built to divide people along largely irrelevant ideological differences, which inures to the benefit of only those who hold office, we as a nation face certain demise.
In a nation of hundreds of millions, do we have collective values? Sure we do. Our very existence and the existence of the generations that could potentially follow (if we get our act together) requires at least a few common goals – clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, healthy food, a stable home, safety, healthcare, the ability to create and foster loving and nurturing relationships in our lives, purpose (which we usually find through religion, education and meaningful employment) and the infrastructure to support those requirements – including most importantly the health of the planet on which we reside. And, it really is that simple. It is the job of government to help us coordinate the resources needed to meet those goals with and among each other. It is the job of government to figure out how we collectively create that baseline for every American and enforce the basic inalienable rights that all humans should have.
Of course, how we get there varies widely, but if we keep in mind that we have these common goals, we actually can relish in the diversity of ideas that take us there. If we recognize that our destinies are linked together, then we will commit to meet these requirements for ourselves and others . Then, we can sit down and actually listen to, evaluate and hone in on sound, practical and forward-thinking plans to get us all there. Imagine if all of the dollars spent on political campaigns could be redirected to training scientists, engineers and artists. Surely, by now we would have clean and affordable energy solutions. We’d have even better, faster more efficient technology. We’d have a strong economy and more peaceful communities in which to live and engage.
While the Supreme Court certainly did us no favors by adding fuel to an out-of-control fire of unlimited campaign spending, we have to recognize that if voters actually can be swayed by 15 to 60-second political ads, we have failed in our responsibility to be engaged and educated citizens.
So, while we can easily lay blame for our current situation to the horrific state of politics and politicians seeking to preserve their own power, there’s enough blame for all of us. We each have to stand on the shoulders of our ancestors and look into the eyes of our children and remember our responsibility to create a better reality than we inherited, not a worse one. We each have to own our personal responsibility to get our nation and our political system where it needs to be. We must push for reforms so that our pool of leaders is not just a reflection of those born into rich inheritances and political connections, but rather a pool of driven leaders who reflect the vast experiences across the spectrum of our nation’s many diversities. Sadly, a quick glance at the backgrounds of most of those in the highest echelons of political power reveals the former not the latter.
Irrespective of how you cast your vote, once we pick our leaders, the next task is to make sure they do the right thing. The next step is to pay attention, speak up with our ideas for solutions and hold accountable those we elect to implement them. This means, too, that in the midst of mudslinging election years, we cannot allow politicians to “dumb down” the conversation and relegate serious issues to politically advantageous sound bites.
If we are doing our jobs, we can handle hearing concrete ideas for solutions to the very tough problems we face. Surely, our civics classes equipped us to understand that deficits – economic, social and otherwise—that were decades in the making, cannot be fixed with two- to-four year solutions that neatly match our election cycles.
So, fellow citizens and voters, let’s dig in and delve down into understanding each candidate’s platform and ideas about how to solve our collective problems and may the person best equipped to bring us together as a nation win.