Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Threat to our Country From Within

Our country is splitting itself in half, manifested many different ways: red state vs blue state, conservative vs liberal, religious vs secular, etc. Why is that and how far will it split?

We increasingly derive our information from two different, unshared perspectives; firmly believe opposing views of the nation and world, and thus, have less and less to agree upon. Bias in the mainstream press helped accelerate the rise of a new cable television network, talk radio, and blogs. This rapidly cultivated a nation relying on completely different views for national and international news. In turn, this decreased the presence of common ground for us to agree and move forward upon.

If you and I look at the same picture, we will likely come to agreement on some aspects of the picture, but not totally agree on what we see; we all interpret things differently. But if we were looking at two different pictures, we would likely not agree on much of anything.

The same holds true for information sources. When information on a subject comes from two sources with completely different biases, there are two pictures painted about the subject, not just one that we study and find generalities or details to agree upon. How can we then agree upon what is actually taking place?

The Dubai Ports deal and alleged civil war in Iraq are good examples of events on which we will likely fail to achieve common ground, because there are two absolutely different pictures being painted. The “picture” against the Dubai Ports Deal is that the U.A.E. is going to “own” those 6 ports, thus we would lose control over all security and shipments in and out of those ports. The counter (per the agreement) is that the U.A.E. does not buy/own the ports; there is no transfer of property, sovereignty, control, or security. It is essentially a lease to operate some terminals within the ports, something we’ve been doing for years with other countries. Concerning Iraq, some journalists reported that civil war had broken out over the course of the last few weeks. However, there were other journalists in Iraq, like Ralph Peters, criss-crossing Baghdad and reporting absolutely no signs of anything akin to a civil war.

Depending upon where you get your news, you would see one picture of these events or the other. Matters then become much worse when the pictures, events, and issues can’t be intelligently and honestly discussed. When one side of the debate resorts to insults, personal attacks, threats, name calling, and shouting louder rather than debating smarter, an intelligent way forward with a “win-win” character can not be achieved. When one side of the argument is more interested in scoring political points, impressing colleagues, or satisfying ego’s rather than sincerely and judiciously debating the issue and finding solutions, our country flounders in neglect and cynicism.

From the very birth of this nation we have debated which way to move forward. Our founding fathers wrestled with what the Constitution should say; whether or not a Bill of Rights was necessary; how much power the federal government should have, etc. Intellectual, truthful debate by upright statesmen found successful options.

But, the condition of American politics and society is much more bitter and partisan than ever, and possible ways forward seem to be fewer and fewer every day. I know I’m not alone in that observation and conclusion.

As has always been the case for our country, we debate taxes, policies, federal court nominees, and so on. But, the debate is becoming more and more partisan and less and less productive. Common ground to agree and move forward upon is disappearing. We increasingly have one side trying to get their way and the other side needing to counter-attack, like two five year olds fighting over the last cupcake. Those who rise to find a constructive, principled way for all seem to dissolve into the background noise of the two different pictures of two different America’s.

So, where will all of this lead? How ugly will it become? How pervasive and permanent is the inability of our country to find honest, advantageous ways forward on everyday security, economic, and domestic issues? How does that disposition affect our nation’s integrity in the face of the tempestuous issues of morality?

Look at history. In the 1860’s we rightly fought a civil war over the horrors of slavery. Slavery was an awful, immoral practice and the war was drawn and fought along moral lines. Now, look at the issues of homosexuality and abortion; two major issues where extremely emotional debates are clearly drawn along lines of morality. And then underscore those issues with current strategies, the two pictures of America, our partisanship, bitterness, and inability to debate relatively emotionless issues. Will we eventually work ourselves back into seeking our own civil split, amicably or even physically? Will the propensity for partisanship and the huge divide along lines of morality completely divide us once again?

As an American citizen, a patriot, a veteran, a Marine, I hope and pray that scenario never unfolds. That we once again find ways to honestly and intelligently assess and debate all moral views to find productive solutions for the benefit and longevity of this nation.

No comments: