This has been a tougher-than-usual posting to write. I am not in any way agreeing with the President’s decision to send more troops to Iraq, nor am I attempting to silence the voice of those who oppose or disagree with his policies. I need to make it clear I am writing to my fellow Americans because George W Bush is our president and we live under our current Constitution. I am advocating that unless and until we can learn to embrace and align ourselves with our leaders within our system of government, we are as much a part of what we are complaining about as those with whom we disagree. This could well apply to anyone anywhere.
All the hoopla following President Bush’s decision to send more troops to Iraq is not surprising to me. Even he didn’t seem too happy with the idea. (Listen to the President’s radio address here.) It looks like he was between a rock and a hard place—literally trapped between the left and the right, which probably serves him right given how polarized the body politic has become since he broke his promise to ‘unify’ America following 9/11. I am not interested here, however, at taking another swipe at the current administration.
Instead, I want to suggest this is a time where ‘mature’ leadership can begin to come to the forefront. Now we have an opportunity to come to our senses and accept that, while we may not always agree with our leaders, there is a point in time when we demonstrate our commitment as a loyal minority (or even a loyal majority) that disagrees with a policy by taking responsibility for the system as a whole and ‘owning’ the decisions of our leaders. Specifically, it is time that we stop being a spectator society and stop voting in the polls. We can vote Bush and his cronies out in November 2008, just as we did for Congress at the mid-term elections. But please, let’s stop kicking the guy. His is not an easy job in the best of times. Can’t we accept we are all committed to this strategy—whether we like it or not?
I am not opposing legitimate ‘push back’ through the mechanisms available such as the courts, congressional debate, editorials, and so forth. I just think it’s too easy to sit back like armchair quarterbacks and not take responsibility for the fact that he was elected (no matter how close the election was). We still have a constitution that needs to be honored, empowered and upheld—especially in the face of the kind of divisiveness we are now facing. Bush is our president for the next two years. Talk of impeachment is a waste of time in the sense that it’s a tool for indicting a president for breaking a law—not a punishment for bad judgment, no matter how bad that judgment might be.
Where was all of this outrage and righteousness in 2004? The answer isn’t self-flagellation, nor is it in attacking Bush. The most courageous (and in the long run difference-making) strategy for each and every one of us is to keep our focus on making the best of what might well be a bad policy, even at the cost of additional American lives. Instead of feeding the flames of acrimony and separation through media campaigns and attempts to manipulate public opinion, let’s build a foundation for learning how to rebuild our relationship with each other and bring about change through innovation and by aligning our commitments.
Today someone sent me a ‘joke’ with the punchline that Democrats were all low IQ idiots—a sort of political ‘blond joke’. It wasn’t funny, but rather than send back a joke about ‘right wingers,’ I just pushed delete and prayed that if enough of us ‘turn the other cheek’ then maybe we can begin to at least respect each other’s views.
At the end of the day, conservatives and liberals are just different points-of-view. In the past six years, the emotional turmoil that has grown out of the differences has caused more damage I fear than all the financial costs, ‘what ifs’, disrespect, lack of compassion, arrogance and intolerance from both sides combined. I have lost touch with half of my family because we’ve become split along ‘blue’ and ‘red’ party lines. Now we just walk on eggshells and avoid conversations that might trigger another upset. I don’t think our family is unique. And whether we speak of one family, a community, the nation or the world, we are talking about losing the capacity for civil discourse and acceptance of sincere differences.
If there is any connection between age and wisdom, then I must believe that the wisest of our leaders are calling for us to align ourselves (even if we strongly disagree) with the President’s decision within what is now an obvious process of completing this disastrous enterprise in Iraq in a manner that offers some possibility for governance short of anarchy (and probably genocide). I cannot begin to imagine what the suffering of ordinary people must be who are caught up in the travesty there.
However this works out, I am certain our daily “opinion fests” in coffee shops and the media won’t make any difference. It seems to me that we are acting like a bunch of hooligans at a football game. We’re brawling beneath the bleachers, rather than expressing our differences on the field with decorum according to the civilized rules and processes that have served us for 250 years.
As Elders we should admonish both sides in this schoolyard brawl and say “Shame on you” to conservatives and liberals alike, as well as the media who are more concerned about their ideologies or ratings than they are with having the world work for all human beings.