Tag Archives: America

Where’s My America?

25 Mar

Politics bring out the worst in human beings. I’m convinced.

This past week has been a case in point. With the health care reform bill now signed, we can look backward — and forward — with a certain amount of pride. And shame.

Pride for having accomplished a feat that puts us on a par with the rest of the developed world. We are finally in a position, as the wealthiest country in the world, to provide for our own people’s well-being, when they are not able to care for themselves. Our bootstraps mentality has gotten us far in this world, from explorers of the New World to pioneers of the Wild West. We have a right to be proud of DIY-ism.

Yet it has held us back from providing a fundamental building block of getting ahead — the gift of health — to millions of our fellow Americans. We’re apt to go around the world and be the hero, saving others from tribal infighting and cruel dictators, but we’ve hesitated for so long to provide for our own. Now we’ve gone and done it.

Where’s the shame in all of this? We have some serious contemplation to do on our collective reaction to the difference in opinion about this reform. What’s my key point here? Difference of opinion is a good thing. If approached without fear, hatred and bigotry, it’s fertile ground for bridge-building.

This is not about pollyanna can’t we just get along mentality. This is about the very substance of our nation, our past and future.

Where’s my America? An America that was born on difference of opinion, seeded by people who left Europe because they were persecuted for their religious beliefs that ran counter to the norm. My English ancestors came to America in 1682 on the ship Submission, leaving behind an England that had them fined, imprisoned and beaten down for practicing Quakerism. So many immigrants have come to these shores seeking freedom from persecution for their beliefs. Our government was built upon humanistic ideals that saw beyond religious affiliation and elitism.

Suddenly, difference of opinion means that we cannot meet in the middle. It assumes that there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to believe. Absolutism reigns, to our collective detriment. The ideologues on talk radio — both sides — are becoming our puppeteers. They create the spin, and we parrot their messages. I am so tired of hearing recycled ridiculousness from the pundits. When did we stop thinking for ourselves, reviewing the information at hand and coming up with opinions that we could stand behind?

Right here in my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, we’ve hosted Tea Partiers who publicly ridiculed a man with Parkinson’s disease, insinuating that he was a beggar who did not deserve “free” health care.  A sad case of misinterpreting someone’s circumstances.

Political discourse should not mean that citizens — and our elected officials — need to shout or threaten one another over something as trivial as a disagreement over beliefs. Theoretically, our political beliefs stem from the same set of facts. We just interpret them differently. That’s what makes them opinions. Somehow, society seems to be confusing beliefs and opinions with facts.

We need to get back to talking with one another, not accusing each other of being “baby killers” or “liars.” We’ve got to remember that our system of government was designed to blend difference of opinion and make something of it, not fail to participate in compromise and solution-building. The current landscape is an embarrassment to our country’s heritage of open debate. We’ve had our moments in history where we’ve strayed from the freedoms of thought and speech that formed the basis of our nation. Let’s not be tempted to let our America stoop so low again.

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