As I observe debates on policies, strategies and values, I am struck by the absence of thoughtful voices. The blaring demagoguery of Rosie declaring that the illegal capture of British soldiers by Iran is a plot by the West to have an excuse to invade Iran is one example of buffoonery among many that permeate the public square. Iran has violated enough laws and treaties that some action is needed; however, that is for the next column!
When I see the hypocrisy of our President extolling our safety against terrorism while undermining our security through terrible budget and immigration policies, I am concerned with the incoherence and instability these policies bring to our nation.
The debate on the war in Iraq is healthy. Stifling dissent is not; neither is undermining the safety of our troops.
What is missing in all the arguments on Iraq is a larger strategic discussion of how to keep a non-territorial, ideologial enemy from destroying our freedoms through fear and violence.
The USA must not be a colonizing, occupying force. We must, with the help of others, confront terrorist dens with strength and refuse to listen to any leaders who will chant "death to the USA...death to Israel..."
Thoughtful people know that Israel is not a perfect nation; however, she is a democracy and is nothing like the regimes she must fight. The looting of Gaza is a prime example of the fact that Hamas and others want nothing less than Israel's destruction...and they will wage as long a war as necessary to achieve their end.
A thoughful approach includes economic, political and social policies that ensure Israel's survival and the creation of a Palestinian State committed to the principle of law. So far, Abbas' own followers are more concerned with rocket attacks against Israel than any real negotiations.
Moving to global warming, we see a similar absence of middle ground and "third way" thinking. Instead of allowing real debate, words like "consensus" get tossed around as an excuse for policies that may do little long-term good and bring immediate harm to our economy and political freedom.
Alternative fuels, excellent land-use policies, careful managing of resources - these all make moral and social sense without the fearmongering.
Religious freedom is also threatened by militant secularists who now want to prohibit religious speech outside the workplace amomg coworkers and edit preaching from pulpits. Fortunately, there are enough sane people in the USA and a remant who remember the real intent of the First Amendment to keep these efforts from gaining steam - but we must be vigilant. Like the Marxists of the 1920s to 1950s, we must beware of "freedom" becoming a codeword for conformity to anti-religious ideas.
McCarthyism is more alive on the Left than the Right these days. Woe to any African-Americans or Hispanics who dare espouse conservative views. Alberto Gonzales' troubles are blown way out of proportion. During the Clinton administration, many more attorneys were fired without a peep from the media. The hatred toward anything Bush does colors everything. The Left's responses to Tony Snow's cancer and Dick Cheney's health problems is one more example of a sick society.
Lest the Right assume some kind of superiority, there is much to be critical about here as well. The current Republican Presidential candidates are as uninspiring as oatmeal without fruit or sugar added. Add to this the failure of conservatives to curb spending, inspire trust and live lives that match their values, it leaves our culture with a gaping void. The thought of Newt Gingrich for President - given his moral and political track record - is depressing.
We need inspiration - thus we see the attraction to Barack Obama. But we need conviction and substance - and Obama will fade when his multiple personalties and image making wear thin. We want to find middle ground to help all Americans - so the Dems move right and the Repubs move left - and the result is not dymnamic progress, but a muddled public square of cynicism and sound-bites. When our news cycles are filled with Anna Nicole Smith, there is something perverted about our social appetities.
Thoughtful people want reasonable fiscal policies, the rule of law (and a long-term strategy) for immigration, careful and cohesive ideas to fight terrorism, and freedom to pursue principled happiness. Thoughtful people know that freedom relies upon debating our deepest differences with civility. I dislike the ideas and methods of Cindy Sheehan - but I will defend her right to be noisy! I will not defend college professors and students who shout down speakers whose views are different. Known supporters of terrorism are called "freedom fighters" on campuses while rock-solid conservative voices are "fascists." This is not a sign of progress.
Here is my challenge to all: Can we debate and work without personal vitriol? Can we lay aside personal power long enough to ensure a future for our children? Ad hominem attacks, name calling, loaded questions, assuming conclusions before asking questions - these all point to people who can not remember their freshman logic courses!
There are answers to the problems we face - but we must first face ourselves.