Visions, One Reality
shows that the United States is not the product of a single,
monolithic philosophy. Before it became a separate nation, European
settlers included the economic adventurers of Jamestown, the theocratic
experiment of the Pilgrims, indentured servants, a prison colony,
and entrepreneurial planters with their slaves. Thirteen colonies
each had their own distinct identities and special interests - and
relationships between them were not always congenial. That they
all retained connections with their mother-country, Great Britain,
yet remained separate colonies, reflected their independent demeanor
During and after the Revolutionary War, the building
of a nation had to deal with these local differences, and it was
not easy. The Articles of Confederation did its best
to create a weak central government that made the United States
sort of a quasi-nation of separate yet related states that tolerated
one another while competing at the same time. Each had separate
governments, laws and cultural preferences.
The founders, however, had the goal of creating
a true republic, bolstered by the inspiration of Age of enlightenment
ideals. This included electing leaders who were dedicated solely
to the public good and not to their own profit, as so many of the
founders themselves managed to achieve. In contrast, they saw that
the individuals states quickly lost that noble directive. They were
being led by leaders who had only their own personal or special
interests in mind. Political candidates at the state level were
not the enlightened, educated leaders that they had hoped for. They
were provincial, personally ambitious, and represented factions
rather than entire communities.
A convention was called (validated by the presence
of George Washington himself) to solve this problem. At first
the hope was to repair the Articles of Confederation. As
time went on, however, it seemed impossible. Behind closed doors
they hammered out a Constitution and sent it out to
the states for ratification. Its merit was argued in the press by
those who defended "federalism" and those who would be
known as "anti-federalists." The pro-constitution arguments
were collected for posterity in the Federalist Papers.
They dealt with how the proposed tri-partite government would rise
above factional competition. The sheer size of this nation would
pit one faction against another, thus preventing the ascendancy
of one over the others. The distance of a strong, central government
would also remove representatives from local pressures in order
to help them make decisions that wisely and nobly focused on the
public good. This was especially true of the president, who was
supposed to be the least partial.
Constitution was eventually ratified and the federal government
was created. It has grown ever since. While it often manages to
regulate the "several states" on behalf of the public
good, and continues to provide the necessary focus to maintain an
independent nation, it ultimately failed to attract the kind of
noble statesmen that the founders envisioned. Factions have had
more influence on political outcomes than the framers of the constitution
predicted. The safeguards of a republic were lost in the growth
of democratic leanings. Not many Americans realize that the nation's
founders who lived long enough to see this happen came to regret
the results of their brave dream of independence.
parties, representing the interests of various factions, came to
dominate the system. They adopted ideologies that contrasted with
one another in order to better compete. The ideologies eventually
produced the conservative/liberal ideologies we have today.
and liberalism have consolidated into two very different visions
Conservatism wants a small federal
government that has little or no regulatory power over the separate
states. They espouse as much freedom as possible, yet hold very
little concern about the attainment of that freedom by individuals
as far as opportunity is concerned. The idea of a laisser-faire
economy extends itself to people as well. To secure extended public
support, they have adopted such wedge issues as the anti-abortion
movement, pro-gun rights, evangelical concerns, pro-corporation
advantages, and anything deemed to be liberal, including the Affordable
Healthcare Act, which was originally based on a conservative template.
In recent years, they have decried cooperation with liberals on
most issues. Conservative factions range from international isolationism
to neo-con policies of aggressively pushing other nations toward
democracy. They want the strongest military possible.
believes that a strong federal government is needed to protect human
and equal rights, and regulate the actions of businesses and local
governments to protect the public good. They support education as
the obvious means to personal freedom and accomplishment, and as
necessary to the proper functioning of democracy. Wedge issues they
represent include the promotion of equal and human rights, a level
playing field for all people to get ahead, anti-poverty programs,
reducing the income gap, environmental protection, and continued
separation of church and state. They are prone to provide humanitarian
aid to other countries on need.
both parties have been guilty of corruption, hypocrisy, empty showmanship
and promoting divisive contention for political gain, the American
people seem resigned to their existence and dominating influence.
there we have it. Two ideological visions at war with one another,
supporting a chaos of conflicting ideas that divide the nation into
what of realty? Is there a vision for the United States' government
that would be more appropriate? Certainly times call for serious
consideration of the possibility.
us start at the beginning. Is the United States a nation among the
nations of the world? Does it have the right, indeed, the responsibility
to assume the role of other modern, western nations of the 21st
century? What if a substantial and vocally hostile minority wants
the United States to be something less than what it is? Not a nation,
but something amorphously detached, little more than a military
asset contributed to by the states for mutual protection. If that
becomes the case, who decides military ventures? What if some states
want to invade a perceived enemy, and some do not? Can they withdraw
their state troops from the action and wash their hands of involvement?
Or does their unwillingness stop the action completely?
federal regulations, the states would experience new autonomy.
Nothing would bind them to the original ideals and values that the
United States is known for. Regional values and biases would rise
more to the surface. Changes in laws would take place that disconnect
states from a mutually accepted culture. While local politicians
might profit from that in the outset, commonalities would degrade
and relationships between Americans as a people, their shared ideals
and laws, would eventually dissolve. At some point, the confederation
might fall apart and a proliferation of smaller, competing nations
would be the final outcome. Social Security and Medicare would end.
Many of the elderly and handicapped would be sent to low income
public housing, which would be far more like poor houses than public
housing is today. Only the wealthy could afford proper medical care.
The economic ramifications would be enormous, with poorer states
becoming poorer, and wealthy states bewildered by a whole new way
of doing things. As a result of increased poverty, crime would increase.
Gun ownership would rise, with an increase of accidental shooting
deaths. More frustrated people would join the mentally ill in expressing
their rage violently in mass killings.
Liberal states would try to help needy, while
conservative states would proudly let people fend for themselves
and rise to the occasion. Distributions of assets and skilled workers
would instigate tension between these newly independent countries.
In nations that once depended on federal assistance, taxes would
have to be raised to keep their government services going, increasing
poverty. The threat of migrations of the poor would probably lead
to rigorous immigration laws, which would add to international tensions.
What was once easy interstate travel would necessitate passports
and checkpoints. Local tensions would grow as empowered, ideological
media professionals continue to agitate a hurting populace. The
worldwide stability that the American military and economic power
sustain would end and wars would proliferate in various global hotspots.
Canada and Latin America would dominate the west. Russia and China
would become imperial powers in competition with each other. The
Middle East would go up in flames.
exactly an attractive picture.
present situation, while certainly better, cannot be sustained.
Our global military presence is very expensive, as are the ongoing
series of punitive and preventative wars. Income disparity, especially
during recession recovery, propagates tension between the fabulously
wealthy (especially those seen as causing the recession and then
profiting from it) and a struggling working class. Political partisanship,
steeped in corruption, conspiracy theories and divisive rhetoric,
has turned our democracy into a farce. Tax dollars are often wasted
on inefficient bureaucracies and preferential earmarks. Cooperation
between the parties is considered a bad word. The cost of entitlement
programs is skyrocketing toward insolvency while simple remedies,
like raising the income scale for Social Security contributions,
are ignored for fear of legislators being seen as raising taxes.
Democracy itself is under siege with state legislators trying to
suppress voting rights in their favor, while unreasonable gerrymandering
of districts fix election outcomes.
A New Vision
new vision for the United States has to take all this
into account, and seek alternatives that will work for all Americans.
A good start would be rejecting partisanship as we now have it.
Perhaps a third party could step forward and challenge the veracity
of the entrenched powers, not as offshoots of one or the other,
but as something new and different, a real choice based on the requirements
of noble virtue that our founders originally intended. Honesty.
Disinterested judgments. Cosmopolitan rather than regional ideals.
Concern for the public good that transcends programs of dependency.
Affordable educational opportunities. A rejection of partisan media
propagandists. Reliable journalism, completely separated from entertainment
and political agendas. A nation united by inspiring ideals rather
than greedy self-interests.
size of government is a constantly repeated concern of many
Americans. When we consider the size of government in our new, reality-based
vision, the choice cannot be arbitrarily decided by political taglines.
It must be made by reason instead. For some extremists, the government
could never be small enough. (To illustrate the mindset we are dealing
with, one popular extremist ridiculously suggested that it be made
small enough to drown in a bathtub. While this may elicit applause
from some corners, it shows the puerile emotionalism that feeds
never hear descriptions of extreme, liberal Utopias from liberals
themselves. Liberals have become much more moderate in recent decades,
despite charges to the contrary. We do hear warnings made by their
opponents, however, about a huge federal government that does everything
for everyone. It has been likened to communism, or extreme socialism.
Such a state would foster dependency and discourage personal responsibility
and initiative. Freedom would be lost in the outcome, opening doors
to despotism. Every program that helps the poor or curtail environmental
pollution is considered proof that this is happening. Although this
description given to us by opponents of liberalism, for our purposes
it serves as a point of reference. (Some conservatives believe that
the popular ownership of guns is the only defense people have from
a tyrannical takeover of communist-style liberalism, and the "immoral,
atheistic" consequences thereof.)
of these visions has any relationship to reality. They are based
on concepts that arise from the constant bantering of political
contention, and are meant to enflame the passions. Reality shows
that when conservatives are in power, the size of government is
not reduced and is often expanded. They may reduce taxes, but this
only contributes to the huge national deficit that they themselves
complain about. When liberals are in charge, their policies are
a far cry from those of communism. Yes, they do help the poor and
protect the environment, but that is common among civilized nation-states,
especially in the west. An argument can be made that providing food
stamps and affordable healthcare actually enhances personal freedom
rather than detracts from it, as the ravages of poverty and disease
partisan battle devolves into name-calling, false accusations, conspiracy
theories and distracting wedge issues which, by their nature, have
no easy solutions but successfully promote unending contention.
This is the circle of politics that we live in, seasoned with schoolyard
antics, political posturing, screaming heads, and the ubiquitous
unending whining and complaining of talk radio.
is hardly the mature statesmanship and tranquility that our founders
envisioned. And it is not their fault - it is ours. We have lost
touch with the requirements of civilized behavior. We have placed
artificially provoked passions ahead of reason and national unity.
Those who would profit from this madness, and they are many, are
weakening the ties of civilization.
size of government must not be decided by arbitrary partisan taglines.
It must be as small or as large as it needs to be to accomplish
its purpose, which is to promote and protect the public good (or
"general welfare" as the Constitution calls it).
is the public Good?
truth, the question is, and always must be, open-ended. It certainly
cannot be limited to the world understanding of 1789. (That vision
changed almost as soon as it was given, turning the republic into
more of a democracy.)
need leaders who can decipher the public good in relation to present
needs as well as future possibilities. Such leaders must be educated,
intelligent, impartial, of utmost integrity, and strong enough to
stand against special interests when it comes to protecting the
public good. They must understand world events and be impervious
to the lure of corruption.
this too much to expect? It is if we limit human nature to what
we see today.
attain such leaders we need to create such citizens. This was surely
the original intent of the founders, who envisioned a new world
based on reason, virtue and compatriotism. We must take awareness
of our own evolution as people and as a society, and steer it toward
virtue and away from vice. This is the responsibility that freedom
demands from us. It is our duty, a moral duty that we can all unite
expectations of an ethical culture, along with education aimed at
liberating the mind to produce free-thinkers, provide the means
to encourage this progression.
must expect more from human behavior than we have previously. This
means no longer rewarding negative behavior.
founders of the United States made a grave error, the results
of which they regretted later in life. They thought that the introduction
of freedom based on a republican principles would inspire people
to rise to new heights of virtue. This was the impetus of their
movement. The innate virtues of human nature would kick-in automatically.
Nature's Law was something they believed in, a path
that would bring out the best in all people, as the Declaration
of independence made clear. Such beliefs were part of the Age of
Enlightenment air that intellectuals breathed. It was not necessarily
as valued by the average American. A more pervasive, popular view
of freedom focused on national pride derived from republican egalitarianism,
the social mobility that came from hard work, and acquiring a voice
in government. Everyone wanted their voice to be heard as it was,
no matter what their station. The dream of an enlightened republic
based on the Roman ideal, led by impartial, noble statesman for
the good of all humanity, fizzled out. Self-interest became the
new moral guide, defining the world we live in today.
is much to be said about enlightened self-interest. Indeed,
drawn out to its logical conclusion, it could lead to results similar
to what our founders intended. Self-interest that is not enlightened,
that is surface level only, that reduces individualism to the debasement
of greed, completely lacking a social conscience, is something very
different. No doubt, our high-minded founders, who were willing
to sacrifice everything to the public good, would consider a dominant
emphasis on self-interest morally repulsive, a personal tyranny
of vice painted with a moral veneer.
The question that confronts us now is this: Is
it possible to take back some of our founders' idealism and maneuver
our modern world onto a better trajectory?
So imbued we are in an environment of self-interest,
fixed and powerfully successful for those adept in making money,
that the kind of change we are talking about seems unreasonably
challenging and undesired. Unquestioned self-interest defines us.
It defines our politics and national policies. It shapes our economy.
Despite some problems, it basically works. Why tinker with it?
Because there are long-term, structural faults
in our economy, our politics and our personal lives that can be
overlooked only at our peril. We know this. We willingly look the
other way as the national deficit increases beyond comprehension,
income disparity agitates the middle class, politics takes on the
characteristics of a lunchroom spitball fight in high school, terrorism
continues to plague us with the wrath of fanaticism, prisons are
filled beyond capacity, and senseless mass killings by disturbed
individuals mirror the images of our entertainment industry. Something
is dreadfully wrong and needs to be corrected. The more advanced
our knowledge-base and technology becomes, the less progress we
make in sensible decisions.
But is the kind of change we are talking about
realistic? Is it too much to ask from people who are products of
this present-day environment, and invested in things just the way
It is if you believe, in your heart-of-hearts,
that human nature is somehow bound to the hardships and insecurities
of greed and the lust for power. Many do believe that. They cannot
imagine otherwise. The lure of success is just too understandable,
too strong. And compared to what?
What they fail to grasp is that just beneath
the surface of their constant need for distraction is an emptiness
that greed and power cannot fill. There is dissatisfaction, a constant
discontent that they prefer not to recognize. No amount of money
or power or celebrity can fulfill this hidden quarter of human nature.
In fact, that kind of success seems to exasperate it, leading to
broken relationships, chemical addition, and even to suicide. Despite
all the challenges and distractions of success, failure and the
safe refuge of enduring mediocrity, something in their nature, that
which makes them human above all other criteria, remains unfulfilled.
We are no longer what human nature pushes us to be. We are a runaway
havoc of social discontent, without direction, without control,
a protracted immaturity that denies us the satisfaction of becoming
who we really are.
The crossover to maturity that people inherently
need but generally lack may be obtained by responding to an enlightened
code of ethics. The code may be simple, and preferably rooted in
one's culture, but must appeal to responsibility of conscience that
prods us to grow toward perfection - all the while knowing that
perfection itself cannot be obtained. The striving is enough to
awaken the moral center.
founders understood Nature's Law to mean the studious
application of reason to the stimulus of conscience. This is the
moral law, biblically described as being written in one's heart
("they are a law unto themselves"). Conscience is part
of human nature, an entirely subjective experience that completes
the individual. As such, it stands to reason that it must be listened
to, not pushed aside by the twisted logic or ideologies, or the
laziness of the drab mentality of perpetually being a follower.
Subjectivity, individuality, living in the moment, requires an inquisitive
mind. In medieval literature, the achievement of the Holy Grail
is attained by questions, not answers. In religious text, we are
told to seek in order to find, to knock so that the door will be
opened for us. To follow the crowd is to be lost in sea of otherness.
It is a shirking of responsibility to one's very existence, and
contrary to our innermost aspirations. The purpose of the code is
not just to guide one's behavior, but to awaken one to the aspects
of living one's life as quest for of personal development.
start when we commit ourselves to develop our lives to the greater
good. That is the first step on the path toward the fulfillment
of human nature, and it is contrary to prevailing values. A political
ideology that fails to do this invites the corruption that aligns
itself with the priority of self-interest.
with self-interest, I may act a certain way in order to be perceived
as a good person so that others may trust me. My act may be quite
elaborate, and will indeed curb my behavior. A business may go the
extra mile to provide good service in order to attract more customers
and secure their loyalty. This all makes good sense. We understand
why I may act good, and why a business gains reliability. There
is a tangible exchange of value. We find intellectual security in
the idea of goodness that accompanies this comes with a price-tag
as it were. It is the shape and form of goodness, even reliably
so as long as the benefit remains, but it is somewhat questionable
in substance. The spiritual authenticity of the message does not
quite hit the mark. It comes with conditions. It is a mutual benefit
rather than an unadulterated good. We know that. We even appreciate
it, because it speaks our language of self-interest. But it does
satisfy our spiritual need for authenticity, our need of conscience.
We quietly hunger inside for something more real, something that
affirms that life is good, because we can see that true goodness,
imperfect, yes, and sometimes limited only to intent, actually exists.
We see what we can become, and that affirms our deepest strivings.
to this, the dynamics of partisan politics deal mostly with appearances,
illusions, false arguments and scandal mongering that leave us spiritually
bereft. Their relationship to reality is misleadingly and destructively
false. Instead of grudgingly tolerating them, people who respect
truth should be outraged and demand better.
is time for a moral revolution based on the reassertion of virtue
in politics, replacing the negativity of partisanship. It starts
with us, with asserting virtue in our lives, shaping leaders of
tomorrow who are uncompromisingly dedicated to the greater good.