As individuals each of us seek fulfillment and abundance in our lives. As we look back on the past decade, 9/11, the invasions of Irag and Afghanistan, and the near implosion of our entire financial system have shattered American complacency. Our confidence in our national security, financial future and our hegemony in global affairs has been challenged as never before.
However, instead of drawing together as a people, as a nation, we have become increasingly fragmented. We have become a country at war with itself, with liberals pitted against conservatives, with “true believers” in each camp outing one another as heretics. To be sure, democracy is built on the assumption that there will be diverse views of governance, of domestic and foreign policy. Democracy is demonstrably inefficient. Our political system manifests the sharp divisions within our populace. However, in decades past, our political leaders were able, often after bitter debate, to bridge their views and cobble together legislative compromises that moved the country forward.
No longer. The reality of “bi-partisanship” has been consigned to the scrap heap of history. We have become so polarized as a people that we can no longer engage in civil discourse much less serious discussion of the fundamental and over-arching problems that face us as a nation. And our political leaders have so embraced the philosophies of the idealogues among us that our political system is at a standstill. There are no serious calls for coming together, for compromise, only finger pointing and denunciaton. In the meantime, the core issues of health care, education, national security, climate change and poverty are at best being addressed with band aids instead of meaningful action.
Politicians reflect what they think are the beliefs and values of their constituencies. We may grumble and curse “those politicians” in Harrisburg and Washington. But the real answer lies within ourselves. Are we willing as individuals to reach out to those with beliefs different that ours? Are we ready to really listen to what “they” have to say? Can we truly bring rationality and reason into our private and public dialogues. This is our greatest national challenge.