Thursday, February 26, 2015

And speaking of good governance ...

Further to my remarks about Thomas Friedman's most recent op-ed, here are a few thoughts about how Friedman's observations apply not just to the Arab world, but right here at home.

Nothing feeds domestic extremism like the perceived corruption and injustice of our national government. The perception in some quarters, notably the far right (a disconcertingly large segment of the GOP these days), is incorrect: corruption and injustice aren't as bad or as widespread as neo-libertarians would have us believe. But the truth doesn't matter because it's the perception that drives people to act. The perception of corruption and injustice makes many on the far right (and some on the far left, too) ready to give up on national government altogether. Those on the far right who are still engaged in daily life (as opposed to those who have retreated to survivalist encampments) elect nihilists to represent them, hoping that if they elect enough monkey wrenches to Congress they can bring the governmental machinery to a grinding halt. They've come tantalizingly close, and they still might succeed. (The disaffected left, convinced Congress and the presidency are captives of big money, has stopped voting, leaving the electoral landscape tilted far to the right.)

As in the Arab nations convulsed by ISIS, so it is here at home that the challenge is to make people believe in government again. That will only happen, though, if government is genuinely responsive to the citizenry.

Tall order, I agree, and we can't even begin to bring it about until we're more united than divided.

We're too far apart on too many issues to make meaningful compromise possible. I lean progressive and am frequently exasperated by what I see as far-right mulishness, obstructionism without good reason (often in defiance of good reason, in fact). But I, and every other progressive, need to admit that we live in the same country with the people who disagree with us. If we're going to remain one nation (and to do otherwise is unthinkable — no, really, unthinkable), we have to talk to each other. We must make a genuine effort to understand each other. With understanding, we'll have a fighting chance of gaining mutual respect. Then we can get back to fixing our government.

Easy? Of course not. How long will it take? No idea. It took us decades to dig ourselves into this hole; we're not getting out of it overnight. What's the alternative, though? More of the same?

(I've said a lot of this before, by the way.)

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