Page Two: To Believe Is to Love Again

The times they have changed

Page Two

There was a way it used to make sense. Well, if not exactly sense, at least seem real – we were in Vietnam; we shouldn't be. All Americans, regardless of race, religion, or sex, should have equal rights. Which meant insisting on those rights. Which often meant marches and demonstrations. And meant, for the most part, thinking of those rights in the most inclusive sense possible, meaning "All Americans!" Later on, caveats would appear in some places redefining and thus inherently negating that vision. But, of course, as they will and must, my specific politics now appear, as that last sentence is a social judgment, not an objective comment, even as I'm trying to suggest a break in this disruptive political dialogue so that maybe we all could take a breath. The times they have changed.

But even more than that, we used to know that Republicans were against big government and Democrats in favor of the social safety net. At different times, sometimes for relatively long stretches, it seems as though one of the politician class' actual concerns (always after the primary one of their power) was what to at least some extent was good for their constituency and for the country, or at least when such improvements could benefit their big-business supporters.

(Let's not be naive – before the Civil War there were physical altercations on the floor of Congress over issues, and there have always been periods where the ruling parties seemed mired in partisan power building and petty differences. There have been do-nothing Congresses, and some pretty much outrightly owned by business interests, but the pendulum swings. Or more accurately, history shakes itself off and moves forward.)

Now more than ever is one of those times when promoting your own side often seems actually less important than ripping apart the other guys' issues.

It seems the leaderships' sense is that the electorate is more interested in vitriol and blame than accomplishment.

Keep in mind that attempting to move forward is always dangerous, while building consensus more fraught with difficulty and danger than ever. Currently, too much of the political class is racing into rhetoric as they flee from governing.

Compromise has long been a dirty word. It just sounded wrong, like selling out while pretending not to. Except compromise is at the core of the Constitutional vision, that the people could and should govern themselves. The triumph is duration over infatuation; that no matter sharp shifts to the right and left, the overall impossibly slow momentum is forward.

The clear-cut anti-war movement of our youth is now shredding in conflicting demands from a more greatly spread-out America. Less foreign intervention; more foreign intervention – the latter often in response to some "Please follow us through the narrow pass into the giant valley where our armies await" terrorist ploys. The movement for civil rights now finds some of its most outspoken supporters using the term to lance affirmative action, which is pretty much the best (despite its many weaknesses) way of addressing the generational consequences of past institutional injustices.

But it isn't easy. It's not clear-cut. A lot that folks supported 20 years ago, today seems either to have had no effect or the opposite than intended effect. Which is to lose grace and progress in the thick swirling smoke of hard-to-assign-an-author-to failures of vision.

How to love again, love the community, the country, the future.

Love the political conflict? As an activity, an exchange of passions and ideas, but not as a means of vilification? Sure, many things are going really badly. But in some ways we are moving forward, often oh-so-slowly moving forward but, yes, forward, toward grace. But as much as my ideological vision of such grace should differ with yours, in some ways the best of each of those may not be very far apart. But then again, maybe they are.

So, what? Belief, I guess. It's done okay by me.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

political discourse, compromise

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