My friends on the Left have demonized the Tea Party movement, rendering anyone connected with these groups ignorant, reactionary and the enemies of all that is noble and progressive. Some of my friends on the Right assail any advocate of environmental oversight or national medical care as anti-American and at least quasi-socialist. Amidst all the polemics, we have a paralyzed economy, mounting debt and social anger inflamed by irresponsible media outlets.
I invite my readers and all thoughtful Americans to change the course of our current direction and consider the following questions as we seek to build communities and a nation worthy of our founding principles.
To those of the chattering Left, I ask,
Have you actually sat down and spoken at length with your Tea Party neighbors or are you too content in your insulated world of self-importance? You might discover concerned, hard-working people with lots of different backgrounds and ideas that care deeply about their land. You might discover, as I have in many locations, people from every continent and cultural persuasion united by the dream of America.
Have you sat down and spoken with the owners of small and medium-sized businesses who carry an enormous tax burden and find themselves threatened by government-protected multinationals and state politicians squeezing them dry with regulations and taxes? Oh, you love the Hollywood moguls, and leaders of "progressive" companies; however, you recoil around anything with a smokestack or any state that will not support certain union mindsets. You might discover compassionate and generous folks who sustain our communities and want a better future for their children.
To those on the clamoring Right, I ask,
Have you sat down with people across cultural and generational lines and deeply listened as they share the challenges of being different in a world that rewards conformity? Have you heard the cries of disabled workers shuttled from one office to another awaiting help? Are you aware that history is not kind to capitalism divorced from ethical and spiritual restraints? You might discover that the "magic of the markets" is not so simple and that our military budgets are just as full of graft and waste as our social service ones.
Have you thought about how to ameliorate the cost of transitioning millions of workers into a 21st century global economy where other nations do not play by our rules? Family-sustaining jobs are harder to find for those without college and graduate degrees. You will discover many folks working many jobs to make ends meet and wondering if their kids will have a brighter future.
I have one question for both "sides" in the media war. Have you considered comparing the policies and principles of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower? A bit of history may inform all of us. No, there are no "good old days." There were, however, among all Americans, rich and poor, black and white, religious or skeptical, some common values of fidelity to family, respect for neighbor, frugality, generosity and civic spirit that are undervalued in today's sensationalized world. Thank God for the Civil Rights movement that created a better future for millions by appealing to such foundational ideas. Conservatives and liberals a half-century ago had more in common than they had in conflict.
Perhaps these queries will stimulate fresh answers as we reaffirm key values and reach for a better future.