Sunday, March 06, 2011

We Can Do Better

Civility is a dying principle in our public discourse. The viral world of blogging and tweeting foments unrefined communication allowing the reaction of the moment to become part of a global conversation. We have thousands getting their news from two comedians and celebrities and politicians issuing threats and using obscenities as a matter of course. Sadly, what is lost is reasoned debate on the serious issues at hand. Political posturing goes back to the sophists in ancient Greece and will not go away until the end of time.
We can do better than this.

We can allow the First Amendment to flourish - even when we are indignant at their ideas. But we must be fair and any restrictions need to be applied equally. Rev. Walter Hoye peacefully protests abortion in Oakland and is arrested multiple times. But gay activists are allowed to scream blasphemies and disturb Catholic religious services. A former Muslim female leader is not allowed to speak at Berkeley and is physically forced off the platform by people protesting her "hate" speech while they call her every name in the book! Meanwhile, anyone who wants more information on Obama's upbringing in marginalized as a "birther" and threatened with investigation (and considered a threat to US security). It is OK to interrupt the funerals of fallen soldiers, but wrong to defend marriage.

We can do better.

I have strong convictions on a number of issues; however, I will defend the right of my neighbor to differ and freely express her or his thoughts in any peaceful manner. I am a Christian, but my friend's community has the liberty to worship in other ways. I want churches to be able to build - and I affirm the right of other religious groups to do the same. I love good art. I am sometimes offended by what others call art - but they have the right (with some limits for age and content) to express themselves. I want the poor fed, the sick healed, the vulnerable protected and our children well-educated. I think we can do these things while balancing budgets and decreasing federal micromanagement. Others disagree and want to accomplish these goals differently. So let's argue - without name calling, appeals to emotion and timeworn cliches.

We can do better. Our future depends on it.

I challenge all of us to think deeply and act decisively. I urge us to ask tough questions, such as:

Why can't we alter our currently unsuccessful military ventures, bring most of our troops home and use our carriers and special forces to fight terrorist hot spots?

Is it possible to see an Islamic democracy where all faiths or people of no faith are real equals, with no dhimmitude?

When will our politicians stop spending money we do not have and create conditions for wealth-creation instead of devising new strategies to tax the productive?

When will the country club Democrats and Republicans roll up their sleeves and show compassion with action and not just words?

When will we realize that the only democracy in the Middle East is a little state called Israel - and they deserve our support?

When will churches lead the way in caring for AIDS victims, just as the persecuted church served plague victims in the third century, during the worst Imperial oppression?

When will we realize that the imperfect but self-correcting experiment called America is still the finest system of human governance on earth?

When will we realize that the government dies not bestow rights - it protects them!?

We can do better. We need to love more, serve the poor more, care for those who cannot return the favor more - in short, think about how to give and not just get. But we cannot forget that humanity is born to create, to infuse into history new products, technologies and other ways to enhance our lives. Wealth distribution is impossible without wealth creation - and such creativity cannot be initiated by a apparatchik in a government building.

We can do better.

We can end the conflict in Wisconsin immediately, if union leaders and members unite with government officials and think about the good of their students.

Let's go beyond the failed polemics and sound bites and solve our problems based on clear principles and practical applications. We can do better. Posterity is counting on us.

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