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Political Inspiration

I keep looking for a presidential candidate who sparks the kind of hope and inspiration that will galvanize the people of the United States. Without the idealism that freedom promotes, we are a lumbering giant unsure of our direction, making every mistake we can.
     What I find so far is a bunch of would-be power-brokers appealing to our prejudices, our vanity, or our desire to continue war or end it.
     I see finger-pointing at who would raise taxes, for the sheer joy of raising them, and who would cut taxes, for the sheer euphoria of deficit spending and catering to the rich.
     I hear abortion touted as the perennial push button topic, so hotly contested that amicable debate isn't possible. Nothing guarantees the loyalty of single issue supporters more than trench warfare.
     It's difficult to believe any candidate when rhetoric is so contrived, tiresome and self-serving. Is that the best they can offer? The threat to democracy is plain.
     We've known the kind of leadership we need. Unfortunately, political consultants have ruled that substance and leadership are not as effective as "proven" strategies-the kind that repeat subtle lies, manipulate religious minds with false promises, and shamelessly attack their opponent's patriotism. Wanting nothing more than winning, candidates allow these consultants to shape them accordingly. We are thus denied the leadership that we need.
     In contrast, history provides rich examples of inspirational integrity. Abraham Lincoln expressed the hopes of his times, by rejuvenating democratic ideals in a forward motion. He was not alone. America has been blessed by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. The pulse of their words echo across time, but we are now swayed by the shallow convenience of sound bites and contradictions instead.
     Reaching back for inspiration, the following quotes are loosely paraphrased based on the writings of Abraham Lincoln:

"The thinking and clichés of the past are inadequate to the stormy needs of the present."

"We cannot escape the history we are making today. No personal significance or insignificance can spare any of us. The trial through which we pass will add a foundation of honor or dishonor to the next generation.

"We say we are for truth and freedom, justice and compassion. By saying it, the world will judge us by our words, and condemn us if we fail. We have the power to remedy our problems. With that in mind, we will nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope for freedom on earth.

"Other means may succeed, but this one that we hold cannot fail if we share it with others. The way is plain, moral, just, inclusive. If we follow the way of our highest principles, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."

We can truly be impressed by the following description, which is not a paraphrase but an exact quote (emphasis mine):

"…[a free government's] leading object is to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders—to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all—to afford all an even start, and a fair chance, in the races of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this I hold to be the leading object of the government for whose existence we contend."

We no longer find that sincerity of vision, that desire for the possible, that belief in the best of aspirations that Abraham Lincoln came to symbolize.
Consider these other wonderful quotes, so relevant as we face the upcoming election:

"What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? Our reliance is in the love of liberty… Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors. Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample the rights of others, you have lost the genius of our own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you."

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

Abraham Lincoln arrived on the scene when our nation resisted making all people free, and was tearing itself apart because of it. Our highest ideals, which were landmarks in human history, had ceased to flourish, and were threatened like never before or since. Lincoln eloquently voiced the aspirations of our founders, but to a higher level than even they envisioned.
Once again our nation is turning its back on our highest ideals. We are forgetting that this is a government of, by and for the people, and not the other way around. This is America. The president and Congress work for us. Nationalism should not be an abstract loyalty to a particular leader or extreme agenda, demanding blind obedience. American nationalism means honoring the will of the informed people and serving the general good.


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