My Turn: A nation in need of a collective soul

  • AP PHOTO/JOSE LUIS MAGANAU.S. Capitol is seen on a sunrise in Washington, Nov. 5.  AP PHOTO/JOSE LUIS MAGANA

Published: 11/23/2021 7:09:47 AM
Modified: 11/23/2021 7:09:32 AM

Full speed ahead!

   That was the mandate          insisted upon by the elite passengers of the unsinkable Titanic as it embarked on its fateful voyage. Though the captain and others urged caution due to icebergs, the privileged few refused to acknowledge any risk as the vessel sped towards its destination .

Today, the stubborn “full speed ahead” approach dominates the fringe members of both political parties who adhere to diametrically opposite agendas. Far right Republicans remain beholden to Donald Trump for fear of alienating his constituency. Their mantra is a constant, personal attack on Democrats and all their proposals and they chastise any fellow Republican who disagrees. These fringe members condone, rather than condemn violence and they exonerate any Republican who engages in such behavior. Forbidden from offering any bipartisan cooperation, many of these members’ antics would be punished by detentions if they were in high school.

Simultaneously, “AOC” and other Democratic fringe members, although passionate about their cause, insist on an agenda that redresses every incident of financial, ethnic or racial injustice since the country was founded. They demand a wholesale revision of nouns, adjectives and pronouns which offend anyone.

A primary example is the national debate over elimination of all Native Americans nicknames for amateur or professional athletic teams. Rightfully so, the “Redskins” nickname” was removed as it was always a disrespectful caricature. However, rather than have a representative cross-section of Native Americans decide which other nicknames are offensive as opposed to communities of guilt-ridden white citizens whose solution has been to eliminate all nicknames. What is the issue with Chiefs, Braves and Warriors, who like Patriots, Minutemen and Generals were valiant and brave leaders? Yet, we are strangled by the search for equality as evidenced by the two-year debate for a new Washington NFL franchise name. How about the Washington Native Americans and a Patriots v. Native Americans Super Bowl.

In marriage and child rearing, we learn early that when disagreements arise, it is best to “pick your spots and your battles wisely.” The reminder should be posted in the House and Senate chambers.

At the White House, President Biden is the proverbial Lord of the Flies, presiding over an assembly of officials who subordinate principle to self-interest . At this point, the president might want to consider to resort to a robo call to many in Congress with a recording of Maren Morris’s ”Why Don’t You Just Meet Me in the Middle”.

Non fringe moderate members of Congress and the electorate now typically hold onto the middle of a rope in a tug of war between the fringes. Typically, they end up aligning with the winning side — but then expect immediate results.

The media, too often, covers the details of every despicable tug of war in political disputes but fails to give prominent coverage to less newsworthy substantive accomplishments.

Americans overwhelmingly favor term limits. Yet, the major power brokers in Congress are in their ’70s and have been entrenched for decades. In order to pass term limits, these same members would be required to propose and pass the legislation. How often do tenants file their own eviction notices?

In the days leading to the Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote his famous treatise entitled , “Common Sense.” A fierce supporter of independence from Great Britain, Paine closed his essay with the following:

“Instead of gazing at each other with suspicious or doubtful curiosity, let each of us hold out to his neighbor the hearty hand of friendship and unite in drawing a line which … shall bury in forgetfulness every former dissension.”

In World War II, The Greatest Generation fought and died to protect the “United” States, not dysfunctional divided party leaders who make Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton seem like best friends.

Even more compelling perhaps were the words of Robert F. Kennedy in his speech “The Menace of Mindless Violence in America,” delivered on April 5, 1968 ,the morning after the assassination of Martin Luther King. His remarks should be played today in a Joint Session of Congress:

….’Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force. Too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of rioting and inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them. Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies. But this much is clear: violence breeds violence repression breeds retaliation and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove the sickness from our souls.”

The fringe leaders in today’s polarized society and government need to heed the above messages. If they remain unwilling to do so and continue their current divisive and disrespectful agenda , the country will certainly continue to proceed “full speed ahead.” Eventually, however, like the Titanic, we will be confronted with a similar reality: Iceberg straight ahead.

Steven E. Kramer, a Greenfield native and Deerfield Academy ’71 graduate, lives in Mashpee.

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