Thursday, August 27, 2009

In Memoriam...

I've been working on a post that was inspired by an article I read recently. The subject of the article is only indirectly related to the subject of my post, which is the fractured way that our (global) society deals with certain words in different contexts. That post, however, can wait for another day.

Right now, I'd like to express something that I hope is being felt by others.

Senator Edward Kennedy died a couple of days ago. Since then, I've heard nothing but fond remembrances of him, from both political allies and political opponents. One theme that seems almost universal is how great he was at finding consensus, being able to work across the aisle, in bringing together opposing interests in efforts to craft legislation in the Senate.

I wonder if now is a teachable moment. By that I mean that if even staunch political opponents can say good things about a man who was able to work across party lines, why can't we as a nation see benefit in being able to do the same? Why are we so polarized right now, so partisan, when we're in one of the most trying periods we've ever faced as a nation?

I can see how passionate debate can deteriorate into shouting matches, but why must it? I had Civics when I was in high school; I know what our system of government is supposed to be able to do. We seem unable to follow through on that premise now. What we have seems more like fear-mongering at its worst, virtually a call for mob violence to get "the other guy," whoever that "other guy" is. Compromise seems out of the question, and consensus is a trip no one is willing to make.

All or nothing is not the way to govern a country as diverse as ours. Politics has been called the art of compromise. This definition may be old, but I don't think it's out of date. I'd like to see more attention paid to this ideal now that we're remembering one of its greatest practitioners.

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