For the Party?

When I hear someone proudly reveal they are a Democrat, a Republican, a Tea Party-er, a Green, a New Wave Neo-Capitalist Social Reform Party person, or whatever, I sometimes hear the distant “Wha-Wha” of a muted trumpet and my mind gives me just a moment where my old friend Charlie Brown and I are back in school. There, we are so nurtured by youth our minds cannot care. There, ideas of nations and political parties are supplanted with notions of fun and warmth. There, we are sure about God and Country.  Then the moment is gone and I’m back in the middle of an American paradox being shared by varying degrees of zealots with no hint of the contradictions in their political positions. As the decibels rise, I wonder when and why they decided to stop being Americans.

I wonder if they are at least “Democrats for America”, “Republicans for America”, or “New Neo-Caps for America”? Are they at least hyphenated Americans? We can live with that. We are that. Or, are they only Republicans, Democrats, Independents — everything of James Madison’s nightmares — a building tyrannical majority? Is it even possible today, to be a Republican or a Democrat and still be a good old fashioned American?

I listen and wonder if “Party-Americans” realize that the very nature of their political affiliation is to work to marginalize and exclude other Americans’ ideas about how we can be a better country.

Political affiliations are exclusionary by nature. They are the source of political conflict. America is not at war with America. Political parties war with each other for the right by conquest to make America in their image for as long as they can convince the electorate that they are the correct Americans.

America, on the other hand, is an inclusive idea. We have built a once and often great nation from the scraps discarded by other older nations. We are the wretched refuse that finds our shores. And when we land, our assumed inclusion makes us great.

This manufactured political tension between and within political parties and the tension those politics bring to our nation, is our call to work. America’s greatness comes, in part, from the fact that we relish and never tire of the work needed to attune those opposite tensions of political affiliation and the inclusive American philosophy.

The current installment of American politics needs much work. It is a lot like the offense actually trying to hurt the defense. When the offense successfully undermines their willing allies and the team loses, should the offense celebrate? Not if they are an actual team with a common goal.

In America, the winning saboteurs throw black-tie affairs and invite no other Americans to the ball. At the end of the night they toast the America where anything is possible for the right people.

The quote below is 123 years old. In the last 123 years America added Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii to our already vast nation. All the problems that come with that much land and that many diverse people, was added as well. We cured, or at least dramatically slowed, invasive H Flu, chicken pox, malaria, measles, polio, small pox, and a long list more.   We have been in and out of wars and created some of the best music and art the world has ever enjoyed.   American advances in science truly rivals the intellectual wonders of the ancient Greek cosmologists. We have put our countrymen on the face of the moon and brought them home, and some of us simply live in space for long periods. How can it be possible that the same impediments to our country’s clearly expressed purpose exist today as they did 123 years ago?

From the Populist Party platform, issued at its convention in Omaha in 1892, which read in part:

“The conditions which surround us best justify our cooperation: we meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized; most of the States have been compelled to isolate the voters at the polling-places to prevent universal intimidation or bribery. The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled; public opinion silenced; business prostrated; our homes covered with mortgages; labor impoverished; and the land concentrating in the hands of the capitalists. The urban workmen are denied the right of organization for self-protection; imported pauperized labor beats down their wages; a hireling standing army, unrecognized by our laws, is established to shoot them down, and they are rapidly degenerating into European conditions. The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of these, in turn, despise the republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice, we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires.”

There is a difference, in my opinion, between real Americans and party-Americans.

We can see the influence of Republicans and Democrats in the progress we have made on the issues described in 1892.

Have they really helped this country?

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