I am always amazed when in the company of other progressives and liberals how truly regressive and unwilling to change we can be. Diary after diary, comments by the thousands about what? How we can’t, how we shouldn’t and how Obama is going wrong. Well Obama hasn’t gone wrong, we’ve just stopped listening and started grinding the same old axes. We spend too much time bashing and not enough time listening, fear and ignorance is abundant on BOTH sides of the ideological divide. Follow me below the fold for hopefully some insight into how all the fears of your worst nightmares coming true are in fact the realization of your most heartfelt dreams for this country.
There are a few cosmic truths we need to explore.
We are only going to move this country forward if we do it together, the good, the bad, the ugly and the ignorant, this country belongs to all of us.
Listening to someone’s grievances and concerns will defuse almost any situation.
When people feel they are being heard they are more likely to listen.
Compromise is not a dirty word, it is not appeasement and it is not Czechoslovakia.
Leaving options open or changing position doesn’t make you a flip flopper, it makes you smart.
Religion is only as good or bad an influence on our world as we choose to make it.
This country belongs to all of us. While we like to look and point fingers at the segment of American society we don’t feel are as “enlightened” as we are, by virtue of the fact we point that finger we aren’t very enlightened either. When Obama suggested we start a dialog about race and by extension racism in this country, it opened the door for other discussions. A dialog about the ideological differences that divide us, polarize us more profoundly than race and racism. Those long held beliefs, right or wrong common to all of us.
I believe Obama wants to facilitate a safe place people can discuss their differences without recrimination or judgements. Which brings me to the second truth, listening to someone’s grievances and concerns will defuse almost any situation. After the Rev.Wright flap I diaried the importance of listening without judgement, not attacking the messengers. This country has a sad history of oppressing people, they have a story we need to hear and acknowledge if we are to ever understand how to solve problems we have faced for centuries. It is hard to fix something if you don’t take the time to find out what is broken.
This also applies to citizens who hold values significantly different than your own. Religious beliefs are part of it. There are members of my own family who could be classified as right wing nuts. This is what I know about them. First they love this country, as much as any citizen. They have fought for this country and the very things we support without regard for the wrongness of their positions in the great scheme of things. They want for their children and their lives in general pretty much the same things we do. I had a choice, I could continue to rail against what I saw as wrong headedness and complete destroy our relationship OR I could leave it alone. I don’t mean ignore it, I mean stop judging it. Engaging them to talk about why they held those feelings, acknowledging those reasons and trying to find a common ground. Finding out bottom line what they want and if it is possible to accommodate their bottom line in a win win situation.
Which brings us to people who feel they are being heard are more likely to listen. We must listen to find that common ground. We can not move forward without finding the place where we can all stand on one issue and work together for the common good. Every time we stand together it makes the next time easier.
Compromise is not a dirty word. Compromise and negotiation for the greater good is not Czechoslovakia. I am not upset about Obama’s willingness to look at reasonable off shore drilling as a way to get a better overall energy package. Does it automatially mean we will drill off shore, of course not.
It’s like clean coal and Nukes, not likely to happen, but it doesn’t hurt to look at it. When the cost, waste, MTR and the time to get there becomes apparent it will be easier to convince the people supporting them there is a better more cost effective way to solve our energy problems, particularly if they have been included in the process from the beginning. Who knows even those of us against spending money on clean coal and Nukes might learn something too, heck we might discover something even better in the process. It costs nothing to concede some of these things early on, let them to be part of the intial mix with limitations because it allows people to be heard. More importantly everyone gets to participate, everyone has a stake in the plan, everyone feels their position has been respected. They get to be heroes and trust me when they look at what was accomplished, that they were included, it makes up for it not being exactly the way they thought they wanted things to go.
Compromise and negotiation also doesn’t mean everything is on the table to be frittered away. So what core values are not in danger of being negotiated away? Choice, energy independence, universal health care, strengthening the middle class, education, minority rights, changing our foreign policy, reinstating the rule of law, are a few. Within all of these there is room to negotiate to move us forward. Even with a super majority in Congress so many things like universal health care are going to be in steps primarily because we have a system in place. The fact it doesn’t work doesn’t mean it is in our best interests in the long run to toss everything out and start over as appealing as it seems. In a great many cases these incremental steps are necessary and the smart way to get to the end goal.
Leaving options open or changing positions doesn’t make you a flip flopper, it makes you smart. Think of it as evolution, smart people learn something new everyday, sometimes the things they learn can change long held beliefs. This becomes important when you expect a candidate to never change even a little bit the positions often made without enough information. What he is going to do is the best job for us he can within the facts and conditions the day he takes office. To believe everything he talks about, all the things on the wish list are written in stone is to be not only impractical but naive. We have already had 7 years of damn the torpedos full steam ahead tunnel vision and as we can see it just doesn’t work.
Religion is only as good or bad an influence on our world as we choose to make it. I know a lot of you believe Obama betrayed the left by participating in Rick Warren’s forum. Obama is a religious guy, so was Jimmy Carter. This is not a bad thing. Obama had the advantage of a mother who exposed him to all beliefs and gave him the choice. He sees what is good in religion. When you listen to him speak candidly about his faith it becomes very clear, he gets it. He tries to keep the teachings of Jesus at work in his life everyday. But, heres the thing, those teachings are virtually the same for every religion. He is not espousing beliefs regarding our obligations to each other that are foreign to non Christians or even non believers for that matter. As example, raising the least among us raises us all can be religious, or seen for what it really is, just plain common sense.
I am sure this makes some of you uncomfortable, but the simple truth is our values, regardless where we got them, including religion play out in the choices we make and our politics. In that way beliefs do become part of policy in the broader sense. What if I told you the New Deal was prompted by the religious values of FDR? Read some of his quotes regarding religion and those obligations to our fellow man and how beliefs do play out in policy making.
“Toward that new definition of prosperity the churches and the Governments, while wholly separate in their functioning, can work hand in hand. Government can ask the churches to stress in their teaching the ideals of social justice, while at the same time government guarantees to the churches- Gentile and Jewish-the right to worship God in their own way. The churches, while they remain wholly free from even the suggestion of interference in Government, can at the same time teach their millions of followers that they have the right to demand of the Government of their own choosing, the maintenance and furtherance of “a more abundant life.” State and Church are rightly united in a common aim. With the help of God, we are on the road toward it.”
“Our modern democratic way of life has its deepest roots in our great common religious tradition, which for ages past has taught to civilized mankind the dignity of the human being, his equality before God, and his responsibility in the making of a better and fairer world.
“In teaching this democratic faith to American children, we need the sustaining, buttressing aid of those great ethical religious teachings which are the heritage of our modern civilization. For “not upon strength nor upon power, but upon the spirit of God” shall our democracy be founded.”
Were he alive today my guess is FDR would also enlist faith based organizations to help fix the world we live in. I diaried about the role of Churches in the fight for social and economic justice. There are more than 40 million men, women and children who live at or below the poverty level and millions more who subsist at 150% of the poverty level or less. It is going to take everyone to fix this including churches. It is a well of need so deep and so great it could represent as many as a quarter of our population. This is not to say there shouldn’t be rules and guide lines, or the need to make sure help is given in a non religious context serving all. Obama is pretty clear about the rules and limitations and protecting the freedoms we hold dear.
Obama would fit into the politics of 40 years ago when our candidates were largely gentlemen and political smears had not yet gained popularity as a tactic. Don’t be fooled by his calm demeanor, his unwillingness to get nasty. He’s tough, he’s strong and sees no need to get in the mud with his opponents, we should be grateful for that. We don’t need another cowboy, we need a smart, thoughtful, even handed, compassionate leader.
This whole process is about change and evolution, yours, mine, theirs as well as our leaders. If his message can change one person, change a neighborhood, a town, a state, a country and the world, how can we not. If we embrace yes we can with our whole hearts this country will change and we will change with it.