Monday, June 25, 2012

My Way or the Highway

One of the biggest questions asked by most Americans is - "Why can't anything get done in Washington, D.C.?" It's a good question and one that begs an answer.

Many members of Congress feel handcuffed by a President who seems almost daily to be slipping further and further out of touch with what the limits of his office are. On the other side of the coin we have a President becoming so frustrated by a "do nothing" Congress that he justifies acting unilaterally to make legislative decisions apart from congressional vote and turning policies into the law of the land by way of Executive Order.

We the People shouldn't be at all surprised by this political anemia and impotence. The state of mind of the politicians occupying the White House and hallowed halls of the Capital Building are merely a reflection of the mood of those who have elected them, repeatedly, into the offices they hold. It is by the will of the people that this sorry state of affairs on the Hill continues because We the People both want it and allow it to go on. If we don't like what is going on we have to look no farther than our own mirrors and gaze at the reflection staring back at us.

Does this all sound a bit maudlin? Too bad! Some time the truth is maudlin and even hurts. My generation, later referred to as "The ME Generation," and our boisterous and sometime flamboyant displays of discontent we became famous for back in the 1960's & 1970's, came about as a result of the anguish and injustice we saw in the world that our parents (the Depression Era/World War II Generation) had left us to deal with. We came out of the 1950's as children lured into a false sense of security hiding under our radioactive proof school desks and we were pissed that we and our parents could have been so naive. Then after the assassination of a beloved President John F. Kennedy, we swore off our innocence and charged into the cold cruel world fully intending to change it only for the betterment of all humankind. Needless to say, we failed. Taking the blinders off our eyes was the right thing to do but in our desire to be unfettered from the shackles of our naiveté we threw out the baby with the bath water. We tore away at the society our parent's created (often referred to as The Greatest Generation) and in doing so without reserve also ended up destroying some of the most important pillars of American culture - hope, trust and optimism.

My generation's story isn't all gloom and doom. We, the children of the 60's, free love, drugs and rock n' roll made some good and worthwhile changes too. We fought back discrimination against people of color, women and those whose religious views were different from the standard Christian concept. We helped bring an end to an unjust war in Vietnam and to bring down a crooked President who stepped outside the bounds of Constitutional and civil law. It was our generation that helped create the Civil Rights Movement and the Women's Movement, as well as ensuring each American child was afforded a sound elementary and high school education regardless of the color of their skin, the size of their bank account or the neighborhood they lived in. At that time these weren't considered liberal or conservative ideas but humanitarian ideals and were strongly supported by Republicans and Democrats. In fact, it was Republican support that helped get the Civil Rights Act passed during the term of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson. We had our problems but one thing that still occurred was a working together of both sides of the aisle when it came to getting important legislation passed and on the books.

Where we went wrong in the process was allowing that pendulum to swing too far in one direction without any kind of checks and balances. We let it get out of control and laid the framework for the situation we now are so sadly familiar with, both sides of any issue or policy so locked into their political positions that nothing short of total collapse of the system will be enough to pry them back into a state of survivable reality. What once at least appeared on the surface to be a working situation has declined into a state of prolongated disenchantment, despair, hopelessness and has left the country with a sense that We the People have lost all personal control and responsibility.

Sadly, we passed this disparity gene on to our children leaving them as the generation of lost dreams. I'm honestly not sure what we expected. This is the natural reaping of two decades sowing seeds of distrust in authority, lack of respect for elected public office and disinterest in the political workings of the world around us.

Fortunately for this nation my generation is coming to an age where we will soon all be relegated to the ground. What I have been witnessing of late is giving me some renewed encouragement and hope for our future into becoming a great country once again that aspires to the vision of its founders. The age of the Great Divide is slowly giving way to a new age of Understanding between disparate parties. I see in a group dubbed The Millennials - those aged 20 to 45 - a new and refreshing way of handling those important issues which so sharply divide us today. Issues like immigration, the economy, healthcare, abortion, education, how we conduct wars, and so forth. My hope is being renewed by people like Representative Aaron Schock, the youngest member of Congress, Mike Lee and Justin Amash. Also up and coming leaders like Duncan Hunter, Senators Marco Rubio, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet are stepping onto the political scene with fresh eyes and ideas that might allow for working with their counterparts in the other parties and actually become a working Congress once again. They seem to have one thing in common so lacking in the older members of government: they understand the importance and advantage of compromise to get needed legislation passed to bring this nation back up out of the ditch it has dug itself into because of decades of this relentless need to play the "I'm right, your wrong - Gotcha!" game that has haunted D.C. for far to long and has led to this era of ineptness and stagnation.

I do see real hope on the horizon for America but it will be The Millennials - our grand and great grandchildren that will make it happen by learning from my generation's few successes and major failures. When that time comes I can go to ground knowing the United States of America is in very capable hands.

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