Crises and Politics
When a crisis or natural disaster is on the horizon, like the recent hurricane Irene, our elected officials from the President down to the mayors all read from the same script. There is no politics or ideology in their words. They are all about assuring us that every governmental agency is organized and on alert to protect lives and property. Suddenly government is portrayed as the guarantor or our safety and guardian of our welfare.
That is as it should be all the time. Politics and the theater of elections should not enter into the real business of government, which is to meet the needs of our citizens and their communities. Unfortunately the opposite occurs: Politics and political rhetoric become the main obstacle to meeting the needs of our country, and aim to divide us as people. When people pull together in a disaster they work shoulder to shoulder to help each other, often at great labor and personal sacrifice. Politics, race, religion, age and gender do not obstruct people who come together to meet a common challenge.
It is not too much of a stretch to characterize politics as America’s greatest enemy. If all the billions that were spent by private interests in partisan elections were instead spent to help meet the needs of education, health care, environmental well-being, and the well-being of families who are dealing with hard times, our country would be better off. Elections spew hatred, lies, suspicion and fear. Conversely, serving the needs of each other (as in times of crises and natural disasters) creates goodwill, hope and appreciation of each other.
Politics as practiced in America has no place in civil society. It is a divisive and confrontational spectacle instead of a force for unity and cooperation. At times of crises politicians transform themselves into the persona of public servant, taking care of the safety of the populous. They thereby try to instill confidence in their competence as leaders. Yet politicians cannot see that we are in perpetual crisis as a nation, once the rains die down and the wind stops blowing. Instead they waste precious time and resources rather than solving pressing problems in the light of the common good. They revert back into incompetent egotists representing narrow interests.
First and foremost, our government should at all times make us confident in our leadership. Yet, currently only twelve percent of Americans polled last week approve of the job our Congress is doing. What a waste of money to elect people who don’t do their job! Most people who work together in communities across our land do much better at meeting the needs of themselves and their neighbors. On a local level people are solving problems of hunger, housing, education and the environment, drawing upon their own resources and feeling for community. Communities are most effective where political ideologies do not play a part. What makes a community strong is a cooperative, can-do attitude that is demonstrated by their leaders and that rallies the citizenry around a common cause.
Politics is a major diversion from solving essential problems. A case in point is the political rhetoric surrounding man-made climate change. It is stupid to debate whether we are threatened by climate change and what role our lifestyle and choices make. The greater question, climate change aside, is whether or not we are living a sane and sustainable life-style. We have passed peak oil and have exhausted easy sources of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, besides creating toxic by-products in their extraction, transportation and use, cannot last. We are polluting our planet and destroying our natural resources, our air and our water.
Why do politicians stall in solving problems and get hung up on rhetorical and collateral issues using them as excuses for non-action? Again, we see this in our attitude towards our health. Must we always debate the dangers of unhealthy eating and life-style before we opt for eating well and exercising? Making choices that are healthy for our environment and for ourselves should be a natural consequence of being mature, thinking adults. Why do we have to wait for crises that put our lives at risk before we change our behavior and act in a healthy way? Our political culture is also sick and in crisis. We have depression and toxic relationships, stagnation, addiction and waste. If our political culture were an individual we would say it needs help and rehabilitation.
By depending upon crises to awaken us to better choices, we have become a victim culture. Victims are those who have lost their will to be their own authors of their destiny. Letting events and exploiters determine our choices and way of life, we have lost our ability to be effective in solving our problems and to be pro-active in reaching our goals. We are a dependent society that was founded on the principle of independence. This irony is sad.
Our political culture does not reflect who we are as a people. It does not manifest our core values as a nation. We are a nation in crisis and it is time to demand that our elected officials begin to act like public servants and instill in us the confidence that they are on the job meeting the pressing everyday needs of the majority of our people, and are acting competently beyond political rhetoric and ideology. It is time for politics to serve the needs of government and be delegated to finding leaders who have the will, ability, cooperative attitude and freedom of mind to solve our problems. As a nation in crisis we know what has to be done, and we need an agenda with benchmarks for healing. We do not have time to waste on empty and divisive political rhetoric. Granted there may be several ways to solve a problem, but mature people prioritize and find solutions while working together for success.