“We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want – everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear – anywhere in the world.”
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress, January 6, 1941
Anyone know what today is the anniversary of? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
On this day, 124 years ago (1886 for those who don’t want to do the math) Liberty Enlightening the World was dedicated on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. The NYT article from that day begins: “The statue of Liberty yesterday was seen through a mist darkly. Piercing winds blew around Bedlow's Island, and the numerous workmen, who were not in any way protected from the weather, worked uncomfortably.”
The description of the weather from Oct. 27, 1886, I think, also describes the political climate we see throughout America today, five days out from the midterm election. Liberty is, indeed, shrouded in a dark mist. At a time when compromise is needed, many Americans are getting set to elect leaders who will do their best to divide us more than ever.
My brother once posed a simple question to me, which I in turn ask you: Does the United States have a two-party system?
Seems like an easy one, but it's not. As much as one side likes to call the other socialists, and they like to respond with fascist (which are indeed two distinct parties), what we have here is a failure to comun’cate. In America we have a one party system. A one-party system divided by ideology since both parties actually believe in democracy. They just have a different way of showing it and different ideas on how it should be implemented.
Contrary to popular beliefs, President Bush was no more a fascist than President Obama is a socialist. If responding to an attack on our country however badly carried out (the response, not the attack) is fascism, and wanting to provide health care to all, however badly conceive, is socialism, well then, sign me up for both newsletters.
I remember being the only guy in my Marine platoon to vote for Bill Clinton. Interestingly enough, even in that supposedly radically conservative environment, it wasn't enough to generate more than a comment or two.
Fast forward to the present day and it seems differing political views are enough to set neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother. Strangely enough, I had one woman tell me she couldn't date me because I wasn't liberal enough, and another a year or so later end a relationship because I was too liberal. To me, that would seem to mean I'm doing it just about right.
Sadly, political tolerance has become the exception rather than the rule in this country. Some recent headlines:
Head Stomp Victim: Paul Supporters Planned It
Violent rhetoric on the trail
Miller security guards handcuff editor
Yes, I know all three of these examples involve Tea Party-backed Republican candidates. However, if I’d heard of a Democratic candidate’s security guards handcuffing a reporter at a public event, you can be sure I’d take note of it.
To me the first article, the one about Rand Paul’s supporters, brings to mind images of Bull Conner’s bull whips, fire hoses and attack dogs. Silencing an opposing political voice through violence is not the American way. Neither is shouting them down, I’d like to point out. I truly thought we’d moved beyond stepping on someone’s head or voice as a political act.
Seems I was wrong.
I seem to remember there being a question on a couple of different forms I filled out for my security clearance asking “Have you ever advocated the violent overthrow of the United States?” Now tell me, how can someone running for a seat in the Senate truthfully answer “no” to that question if they’ve said “Americans might seek Second Amendment remedies to their problems with government”? How can they honestly say “I do” when they are asked to swear or affirm they will support and defend the constitution of the United States as they take the oath of office?
I don’t think they actually understand the Constitution if they feel this way.
One of the most important things I learned at the School of Journalism of Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina is that the First Amendment wasn’t the first amendment. It was actually the third. The real first amendment didn’t pass and the second amendment finally passed in 1992 (202 years after introduction) becoming the 27th Amendment.
However, even if they weren’t first, these words are not a bad basis for governing: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Read those words again carefully. There are candidates out there who believe there should be a state-sponsored religion. They believe in censoring speech and muzzling the press. They believe it’s OK to attack people who gather to ask them questions they don’t want to answer.
We all deserve the four freedoms Roosevelt talked about in 1941, especially freedom from Fear itself. I should not be afraid to express myself in public. I should not be afraid to go to the church, synagogue, mosque or temple of my choice. I should not be afraid to go to a doctor because I’m worried I won’t be able to pay the bill.
For the past 10 or so years I’ve been a firm believer in the need for a third party in this country. Sadly, I thought it would arise from the voters in the middle who’d lost their voices to the fringes of both parties. How could we have known it would explode from the far right?
There are some ugly things happening and being said today in this country. Things I'm sure our founders would cringe at. If they could figure out how to forge this country despite their differences – and they had some doozies – I'd like to think we could rediscover that spirit of compromise. You gotta meet the other guy halfway.
In the end, absolutism never works for anyone.
The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.
– P.J. O’Rourke, Parliament of Whores