The Perversion of an Ideal.

May 7, 2012

Gingrich is out. Santorum is done. Only Mitt remains.
President Obama officially announced the beginning of his campaign for reelection.
Both parties, their supporters and super pacs are set to get medieval on each other. They're squared off in a scene reminiscent of the fight from the movie, Anchorman. It's about to get really, really ugly.
While this political bloodbath rages throughout the rest of the year, the Fiscal Cliff, set to expire at year's end will only draw nearer. Politicians on both sides of our political duopoly will say much and do little.
By October, my four-year old son will be questioning the very validity of the American dream, so fed up with the political stage play transpiring before us will we be.
Yet, this duopoly that exists so that Democrats and Republicans can, even in the worst of times, keep their fiefdoms intact, is a poorly copied print of a beautiful original.
The United States of America was founded on principals set forth on parchment. Principals that, when followed, pointed to liberty and justice for all. These principals allowed everyone to pursue happiness, dreams and interests, without infringing upon the inalienable rights of others.
Alexis de Tocqueville noted in the early 1800s that Americans pursue their economic interests with passion, while also forming associations to take up public affairs and steward the needs of their communities.
The American calling card was optimism, independence and accountability. To fail was to mean you tried. And one was given the right to fail often along the road to success.
We opened our borders to immigrants, many of whom were fleeing authoritarian, omnipresent states that sought to control every aspect of their lives. Here, they could be free to express, act and achieve in any way that suited them, so long as it did not adversely affect others.
Through hard work and diligence, many of these immigrants charted fabulous successes that continue, even today, to offer guidance and inspiration to those who follow.
At that time, the nation could be likened to the woods beside the neighborhood in which you grew up. Full of adventure. Full of opportunity. Sometimes you would fall down. Hurt yourself. Yet, never so badly that you could not get up. And the attraction to return was so strong that yesterday's failures were oft forgotten before the new day arrived.
In the woods, you were free to roam. Explore. Discover. Dream. Nobody was there to tell you which trees to climb. Which creeks to walk. Which rocks to throw. Even as a child, you just knew.
Our rugged individualism and sense of right and wrong was respected. We approached problems with a can-do, idealistic and optimistic attitude that caused other nations to gravitate towards us.
Our government was by the people and for the people. Politics were local. The federal government simply stood an army, protected our borders, and saw that the states and localities had what they needed to pursue their interests. Service was honorable. And having served, one then went back from whence he came. To tend to his family, business and get on with life.
This great nation. Having once thrown off the yolk of tyranny, set out to change the world. We kept our minds on what mattered. Improved ourselves. Worked hard. And when history, on occasion, came to our doorstep seeking assistance in the fight against oppression and tyranny, we answered the call. With unbridled optimism and fortitude.
Our heads clear. Our vision resolute. Our balance sheet clean. And our eyes on the prize.
This beautiful, strong, resource-laden nation became exceptional.
Eventually, technology and an all-encompassing 24/7 media complex weaponized the political process. Turned politicians into celebrities. The first time the television turned its focus on the Kennedy-Nixon Debate, a star was born. Advertisers bought more. And coverage flourished.
Soon, principals gave way to promises. Many of them empty and unattainable. Yet, they served to lead these new celebrities to the very pinnacle of power. Where connections, opportunities and access can provide wealth, power and prosperity unavailable to firemen, accountants and teachers.
Today, the United States of America remains exceptional, in so many ways. Even thought many of our politicians dispute the idea.
Our nation's capital is infinitely more powerful than it once was. It is also a far less attractive and effective place.
Our federal government is the largest enterprise in the history of the world. It consumes more people, capital, time and energy than any other organization that civilization has ever known.
Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Adams - these gentlemen stood for their ideals. Today's politicians stand for office. Every two to four years.
Once our political class learned, in the European tradition, how to parse the voting populace according to interest groups, they ceased running on ideals and began running on promises. Most of them empty and unattainable.
And so the next six months will be replete with mudslinging, grandstanding, demagoguery and, occasionally, impassioned pleas centered on theoretical possibilities. Entire speeches will focus on who might get what.
Yet, the America ideal remains exceptional. Emphatically shown by the number of people who come here each and every year in search of their dreams. Even while our government, especially at the federal level, has become a perverted, bloated and empty version of the original.
The next six months, and all of its made-for-television chicanery, will prove this in a manner that is exceptional only for its expense and grandiosity.
Regardless of who wins, there are likely to be few winners.

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