(A version of this article was published first in Blogcritics, Politics section)
The 2008 presidential election was won on the "hope & change" slogan, and thus far the prediction has been half-right.
I can't address the hope aspect because one person's hope may be another's nightmare, but change it definitely has been and its consequences (intended or unintended) are far from clear or assessable at this early stage. What is abundantly clear, however, we're at the crossroads. And how we act in the present, the kind of decisions we make, will affect our common future and that of the world at large.
It's refreshing to see that some of us are recognizing the momentous times in which we live and have made it a point to address this and no other issue. I happen to think it's more beneficial in our troubled times than addressing the pros and cons of this particular piece of legislation or that, the details of it all, be it health care or the stimulus package or cash-for-clunkers.
Kudos to Charles Euchay and Philip F. Harris for their timely articles: may you start a precedent. In particular, I take comfort from the closing lines of Mr. Harris's well-balanced piece:
Our nation and our planet is [sic] at the edge. The decisions we make now will determine if we rise or fall. The real issue is not have we passed programs in 200 days, it is that we are trying to solve the issues and not hide them in some CIA vault. The remaining problem is that we cannot talk about solutions forever. Decisions must be made now. We know that the ways of the past were a failure. Politicians from both sides of the aisle must now come together and decide. If Obama fails, we all fail!
In that spirit, therefore, let me pick up the baton and carry the discussion through its third leg. What I wish to address are certain systemic changes, changes which I deem necessary if we are to survive as a nation, let alone the presumptive leader of the world. It's a three-prong approach, political, economic and moral, and reforms in each of these areas are long overdue.
I'll restrict my politics-related comments to two issues: campaign finance reform and term limits. It's high time to break up the Washington crowd so as to free it from all suspicion of being beholden to private interests. The sphere of political decision-making must be made distinct from economic decisions because it's a higher call. At the very least, the former mustn't be tainted.
Limiting House and Senate seats to one term only, two at most, would go a long way toward that end. You can hear the usual objections: "It takes time to become an expert and a member of an important committee, blah, blah, blah." Utter nonsense! It's not expertise that's needed in Washington, D.C. but better judgment; and you can't learn that by putting in your time. We don't want technocrats in charge of our nation's future but ordinary women and men – representatives of The People.
Campaign finance reform is the other side of the coin. Setting caps on the candidates' spending in their election or re-election efforts — the same for everyone, without exception — is an integral part of the healing process, reinstating faith in our politicians. The networks and cable channels should do their bit in providing equal time to candidates running for office, pro bono, as part of public service. All media, in fact, aside from being privately-owned, commercial enterprises, must be made to discharge their duty — to inform the public. They must be made aware that with the privilege of an FCC license there comes a responsibility.
On the economic front, we've got to break away from the adversarial model — of (big) business versus the government – which for too long has dominated our thinking. By definition, such a model can only lead to virulent opposition between the two entities or to collusion. Neither alternative is acceptable. It's far better to use the carrot approach, incentives and tax credits, to accomplish the desired results – which means a more cooperative model of negotiating the differences.
As part of the program, we should encourage all manner of cooperative ventures — as between the employers and the employees, or the owners and the consumers — after the fashion of supermarket cooperatives in the seventies or credit unions. There is plenty of room for experimentation, of populating our stagnated business model with hybrid entities, and the government should take the lead in encouraging the formation of all such. Far too much attention has been given to the multinationals. It's small and mid-size businesses which are the mainstay of our economy, the largest employer in fact, and they should be encouraged. It's mainly from this quarter, small to mid-size firms, that all the creativity and innovation come from. Let's never forget it.
Along the moral dimension, I've already spoken of "the moral equivalence and worthiness of persons," of the theory of (human) rights which is quickly becoming the focus of modern political theory and the basis of all right-headed, ethical thinking. At present, it's limited to nation-states, resulting thus in re-inventing the good old concept of "the public good": and the present healthcare proposal, regardless of its intended or unintended consequences, is a case in point. But soon, mark my words, this torch will spread beyond its present boundaries, to include the world at large. And so will the concept of the public good, to encompass every creature large or small, all part of the same global village. It's only a matter of time.
Will this lead to a realignment of political realities and shifting allegiances, to making strange bedfellows and altering the composition within the existing power structures? You bet! The human rights concept, and the corresponding notion of universal justice, are too comprehensive to be contained by the boundaries of a nation-state, any nation state, for any such application is bound to be constricting for being parochial: the whole world, all peoples and nation-states, each and every individual are the proper stage.
So yes, the days of the United States as a sovereign nation are limited – if not in this generation then the next. We've grown too big for our breeches to contain an idea that's going to drive our future and shape the world to come until it reaches a new equilibrium point under brand-new configuration.
Yes, I am talking about the New World Order, a confederation of nation-states, a "brave new world," some have called it, and with great misgivings, I might add. Well, it's bound to be better than the present, characterized by misguided national loyalties and internal squabbles, the pettiness of it all. We're capable of better future and it shall be ours — with America's help of without. Probably without, or in spite of her, I should say, because her people are the greatest obstacle, or so it seems, to human progress. Ultimately, it won't matter because America won't matter.
On what do I base these predictions? Simply the fact that we're undergoing the greatest populist revolution in this country's history. Obama has been "the peoples' choice," no ifs, ands, or buts about it. And what has been the reaction? He's been fought tooth and nail on practically every single issue. On each and every program, every legislative proposal, he's been declared dead-wrong. There is nothing in fact the fellow can do what is right, not even in his sleep. I'll be the first to say that yes, much of what had transpired in the first two hundred days of the new administration can be criticized, but come on . . .
Again, the present controversy concerning health care, the House version, is a case in point. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, the disruptive atmosphere pervading nearly every town-hall meeting devoted to clarifying and discussing the issue, despite the lack of preparation on the part of the congresspersons who are supposed to know better, I have but one comment to make: it's been a disgrace.
I know that some have and will call it the reigniting of the American spirit, the radicalization of the silent majority, the reawakening on the part of the forgotten white male, once so prominent in laying America's foundation and now, all so neglected and made dispensable, the call for freedom and liberty on the part of Everyman. And they'll regard it as the greatest happening since the War of Independence — so sweet the sound.
Well, I have a different take. Once more, we're seeing the great unwashed masses — white trash, if you ask me — subjected to politics of fear. Indeed, it's no different than, when under the auspices of "The War on Terror," most Americans have been more than willing to give up some of their rights under the Patriot Act. This time, however, it's the government that represents the greatest menace by way of "death-panels," rationing healthcare, and whatnot. And in the name of what? Insuring those who, by reason of personal circumstance or the vagaries of the private insurance market, have been left in the cold? Of possibly reducing the overall medical costs when the uninsured check in the emergency rooms and, while not denied treatment, contribute more than heftily to everyone's insurance costs?
Yet the propaganda continues, and it falls on the receptive ears of our seniors, old farts who have no sympathy for anyone but themselves, a privileged class which has never experienced a setback while America was still believable and going strong, the old and dying remnant which knows nothing of solidarity or class-consciousness, of the common lot uniting all peoples of every color, creed and ethnic background, be they Americans or of any other origin. And why? Because they never had to! And so, their only concern is their own entitlements, screw everybody else.
What a sorry state of affairs to be concerned only with number one? What a legacy for a nation that bills itself as the land of the free and the brave? You want my honest opinion? We don't deserve to survive. And we won't if this continues. What we're seeing is a nation disintegrating before our very eyes, falling apart at the seams, while its people think nothing of it. The public good is the furthest thing from their mind. The spirit is gone, the spirit of humanity and common destiny that awaits not just Americans but all men, the sense of human decency and all the values which make us thinking, sentient beings.
I'm ashamed to be an American. For fifty years, I had a love affair with this country, a passionate love affair. For all her faults, I kept on believing in her for she represented a promise, a bright future never realized before, the hope of humankind. No longer! This is the last draw. I have nothing in common with these people. They're not my people anymore and it's no longer my country. All allegiances are broken.
Bye-bye, Miss American Pie. You had your chance, your golden opportunity, but you squandered it. The world will go on, with you or without you, and so will humanity's march toward a better tomorrow. You're history.