A Good Country for Bad Choices

– Labor Day 2018 Blog Post –

Polls and newscasts consistently show that America is a country at uncivil and civic war with itself. National paeans to compromise and solidarity have been replaced by daily twitter dog whistles from 140 to 280 characters where divisive hot air verbiage is either expelled, sucked or typed through pursed foreign and domestic lips to produce deliberate social turbulence. Case in point: the White House had to be publicly shamed to lower its own and government flags to half-mast to commemorate the passing of U.S. Senator John McCain for more than half a day.

Politics and media collude to stampede American society over the cliffs of self-righteous indignation, instinctive extreme partisanship, one issue voting, party over country and culture over party. Intravenously-absorbed, siloed info-channels proffer a “catch-22,” Hobson’s so-called “free choice in which only one thing is offered.” America’s dug-in, bi-polar political party system follows suit by offering “Sophie’s dilemma”  to voters which is a series of “terrible choices between two different options.”

Today’s zero-sum and self-destructing policy buffet of bad choices includes:

  • Fair global trade pacts for disenfranchised, mostly white industrial workers but with an upsurge in domestic policies socializing racism against communities of color and hurting America’s more racially, generation and gender diversified, rising working classes.
  • Nepotism, kleptocracy and cruelty embedded into ethnocentric populism (thinly disguised as anti-elitist political correctness) and authoritarian overreach while overwhelmingly supporting global financial, technology, and trade “creative destruction” practices through outsourcing, offshoring, anti-unionism and other forms of commoditizing labor arbitrage.
  • Protecting America’s borders but at the expense of destroying immigrant families by separating parents from their children through a deliberate policy to build and place immigrant babies in immigration concentration camps while deporting their parents and while bureaucratically unable to reunite hundreds of displaced immigrant families despite court orders to do so.
  • Improvement of some debilitating capitalist practices such as semi-annual as opposed to quarterly returns reporting but matched with another massive wealth transfer from poorer to richer thinly disguised this time as tax reform;
    • America’s latest Federal tax code reform picks winners and punishes losers resulting in political and economic class retaliation depending on 2016 election results. Winners overwhelmingly include red states with substandard civic infrastructure together with high wealth passive income beneficiaries in part through tax reform-induced massive corporate stock buy-backs. Losers in mostly coastal, blue-state urban and suburban populations color-coded as opposition voters no longer qualify for state exemptions starting with higher property and school taxes.
  • Industry and corporatist driven deregulation but with increased environmental contamination and injustices especially impacting those who live in underserved and climate-threatened geographies for whom there’s little escape or economic way out;
    • This approach exacerbates the diverging destinies of two vastly unequal Americas where those with the purchasing power and political means have access to the best government, justice, healthcare, transportation, housing and life longevity that dark money can buy.
  • The exercise of First Amendment constitutional rights such as free speech, free assembly, and free association but at the cost of arbitrarily losing a security clearance for discordant opinions even if nothing classified is uttered or revealed;
    • Its slippery slope antecedent – the right to vote held at figurative gunpoint by those states who want to voter discriminate, suppress and purge enabled by a highly partisan Roberts U.S. Supreme Court that chooses corporations as persons over the unalienable rights humanity of everyday people as citizens.
  • Failure to protect America’s fair and open democratic elections process against proven disruptive and continuing cyber-attacks by a hostile foreign power because the implications of publicly admitting previous such incursions might lead to electoral illegitimacy, conspiracy to collude and even accusations of treason;
    • American Democracy cannot survive without certified fair and free elections on all levels in perception and in fact, word and deed.
  • Administration Protestant evangelism promoting prosperity gospel policy provisions that equate God’s love with materialism and put church before secular state, private before public education. Taxpayer resources are deployed on behalf of those whom the Almighty has already blessed with ample passive income assets to deprive support from those struggling to make it to a next meal and paycheck;
    • The result – white evangelical Protestantism is losing America’s millennials in droves and conservative evangelism is firmly identified with one political party for at least a generation.
    • The National Rifle Association (NRA) faces a similar predicament. Hyped and distorted Second Amendment justifications pushing back on pragmatic and overwhelmingly sought after (according to every poll taken on this issue) domestic gun-control measures is backfiring along generational divides. A political choice favoring gun manufacturers and gun advocates over domestic gun violence victims, past, present and future loses to the mounting toll of America’s school children as first among equal targets in harm’s way;
    • Similar to organized religion and gun ownership, auto and home ownership risk becoming historical artifacts that are neither automatically or manually handed down generationally as a cornerstone of the American dream or nightmare, depending on economic class, zip code and the accident of birth.

Political candidate (and later President) Lincoln said it best 160 years ago in Springfield, Illinois, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”

The conservative columnist, Bret Stephens, observes that, “the consistent theme of American history has been one of continual overcoming by way of direct recourse to first principles — principles that are timeless and universal, even if they were laid down by hypocrites.” He projects that, “The American tradition rests on pillars of self-questioning, self-actualization and disagreement.”

Let us hope this Labor Day that the free exercise of such principles and pillars are sufficient unto the day to validate America’s most aspirational and altruistic traditions.  That this “nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated” can choose between becoming “all one thing, or all the other” and survive the Deus ex Machina opportunity costs of its choices. That America can become a good country for good choices by serving “good causes bigger than ourselves” (read Senator McCain’s final public service letter), by lifting the peoples’ lamp of hope beside an open, welcoming, transforming and empowering golden door of grace for all who cross its portal in good civic faith regardless of race, gender, origin, age, economic class, cultural and religious affinities or political party.