Kiddie Pools and Jack Daniels

I don’t believe in pre-destination or that a higher authority, moment to moment, guides us in any particular direction.

I believe that the universe is a physically logical, mathematically consistent domain that is populated by infinitely capricious events.

As human beings, trying to navigate this existence with meaning, so as to be less fearful of all that can happen outside of our control, we attach religious beliefs, mythologies, and even magic to our experience.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in God, it just means that I can’t define God. I believe that we see what we are looking for and dismiss what does not fit into our personal belief system, or as Paul Simon put more succinctly, “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

What this means to me, politically speaking, is that our destiny is in OUR hands.

My personal agenda is to look at the differences between political ideologies and the stalemates that have resulted. There are four parties to look at, if you consider the Tea Party which, although essentially Republican, is a separate voice pulling party principles toward an extreme interpretation of conservatism, and Independents who vacillate between being Libertarians and unabashed “Undecideds.”  Each party attempts to define it’s ideology from historical legacies and is, therefore, at odds with the others.

While thinking about this, the Paul Simon principle held true as I picked up “Vanity Fair” and went straight to an article by Todd S. Purdum where he talks of the “Big Flip.” He contends that Democrats and Republicans have essentially “flipped” their core ideologies to a point where Republicans are the radicals and Democrats are fighting to retain the status quo.

He writes that “the radical element is now so firmly in control that the Republican Party of 2012…would not have nominated Reagan, Nixon, Eisenhower, or, in all probability, Abraham Lincoln himself…Democrats, for their part, have traveled in virtually the opposite direction. From the New Deal through World War II to the Great Society, the Democrats were the party of steady forward movement, of Big Ideas and Big Shoulders…and aspired to fix the most daunting economic and social problems here at home.”

Today, he believes, Democrats no longer champion new ideas, but focus on maintaining what was won in the past.

Purdum even illustrates how factions of the parties once cooperated by virtue of their ideological legacies: “Liberal Democrats (in the North, not the South) were at the forefront of the civil-rights struggle (in crucial partnership with Republicans who remembered their party’s founding), which reached a legislative high-water mark in the mid-1960s with passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.”

I have written about that very subject myself (Historical Histrionics) and while I didn’t necessarily find Purdum’s “flip” perspective exactly on the mark, I felt validated by the controversy.

As fate would then have it I picked up “Newsweek” and noticed an article from liberal, political consultant, Paul Begala, who wrote of the difference he observes today between the two primary parties. Even though Democrats hated George W. Bush, he writes (I am paraphrasing), they came to the table when he needed them. Case in point, Ted Kennedy’s cooperation when drafting an education reform bill, and when Bush championed an increased budget for AIDS research he found Democrats ready and waiting. Even his signature tax cuts got a number of Democrats on board.

Today, however, Begala points out, bi-partisan cooperation is gone. Gone completely. Democratic legislation doesn’t get a single Republican vote in Congress. In fact today when a Republican cooperates with a Democrat in the interest of their constituents, they are thrown out of office.

Republicans in Washington have stalled, filibustered and flatly voted against every bill the Democrats put forth. Begala even expressed that he wishes he could use the politically correct refrain, “Blame must be shared by both parties” but the truth is…it can’t be, this is “their fault.”

In keeping with my narrative of “programmed” awareness, I was channel surfing in my hotel on a recent business trip and passed by a story on Fox from a Republican fundraiser. A young man was at the lectern stating how (I’m paraphrasing again), “Obama promised unity. He failed on his promise!”

The crowd cheered.

What?  Republicans have “stalled, filibustered and flatly voted against every bill put forth.”  The young man’s chastisement was like blaming the bottle of Jack for the fight with your spouse.

But if your objective is to defeat rather than “unify” logic is not necessary.

There is no easy fix to political bias, but we need to collectively do a massive reality check and determine if this is where we want to be as a society and what, in fact, defines the best ”society.”  Procedures, rules and legislation are all designed to improve or protect one thing or another, but we need to define, as an electorate, where we are willing to take risks and where we need containment; government was never intended to be, nor can it be, the perfect system of protection from all of life’s capricious events.

As my eyes and ears have been open to this conflict , I noticed a local city council debate regarding whether or not kiddie pools should be allowed in front yards.

The concern was brought to city government because some citizens were worried about neighboring children running around and accidentally drowning in an unguarded body of water. Perhaps there may have been a case where that happened. Concern for children was the main motivation, but also liability issues were raised, and the ordinance would be drafted to assign liability.

Other citizens attended the meeting to voice their displeasure at government encroachment and limiting property rights.

I immediately broke this into two questions: One, does this legislation protect lives and livelihoods for the betterment of our community? And, two, is this the function of government?

In my opinion…not necessarily, and no.

Life has risks. We shouldn’t be careless with those risks, and of course the safety of children is always our responsibility, but legislation cannot become the only tool by which we govern our lives.

In my opinion, legislation like that reaches too far and I align with my Libertarian friends in these instances who fear government and ask, “Where does it stop?”

We can legislate forever to reduce risks and require that motorcycle riders must wear helmets, so that smokers have to go outside of bars and restaurants, that children must be strapped into car seats or that wading pools must be in backyards, but at some point, while trying to reduce risks that are so exponential they cannot possibly be eliminated, we diminish the responsibilities that come with living.

I understand that we must contain greed, graft, cheaters and thieves and we must be vigilant in upholding human rights, but government must have parameters so we, as a society, will adjust and evolve, as well.

In summation, I will end with the premise from which I started. Government can be like the universe; logical and consistent in its physical application of order, but we must also recognize that it is the free will of individuals, while negotiating life’s capricious events, that should determine the parameters of society’s laws.

We will always be more attuned to what it is we are programmed to see and hear, but when we can recognize our individual needs and desires in others, regardless of our conflicting persuasions; when we can connect what we, individually, are looking for, to the journey of those around us; then, we can begin to improve government, our communities and to consider our own destiny.

Leave a Reply