A little more than a year ago a good friend of mine from the left wrote a very interesting piece about seeing a sign in a neighbor’s yard which proclaimed “I want my country back.” Seeing this sign, my friend wrote, drove her to tears because she felt that “it was her country too.” To me this highlighted probably the biggest problem we face in America today – both “sides” fundamentally failing to understand the other side.
My close friends are about evenly divided between liberal and conservative and run the entire political gamut. Today, my conservative friends and colleagues vary from feeling extremely angry to melancholy. These feelings coming from the same root cause - the voting majority has rejected, at least in appearance from the outcome of the vote, principles that most conservatives took for granted as universally shared. The importance of personal responsibility, the need to protect the individual from the government and not the other way around, being fiscally responsible, concepts of self-sacrifice and charity, tolerance and acceptance of each other while ending bias based on race, creed and religion were all concepts that my conservative friends feel were rejected by the electorate and they simply don’t get it.
Conservatives are confused as to the message coming from the past election and are frightened that this is the beginning of the end to a free market system that is being replaced by wealth redistribution, racial quotas, religious intolerance and a government first driven economy. Free speech is being squashed by a liberal media that simply refuses to report on anything at odds with liberal principles, even when American lives are lost. Schools are filled with liberal teachers some openly denigrating religious principles and the majority espousing liberal dogma. Conservatives see “working the system” replacing hard work. Conservatives feel ignored and are confused by this apparently rapid shift and they feel helpless and powerless as if work ethic and success have become evil. There is a lot of truth in all they see and feel.
Conservatives don’t have to look beyond their party to identify the problem. Conservatives have become fractured, single interest conglomerations of disparate conservative ideas that fail to coalesce behind common goals and ideals. Liberals have done an absolutely masterful job at creating the perfect sound bite and shaping our language to express liberal concepts as definitionally positive. Conservatives have utterly failed at this and have always been scrambling to react to the perfect liberal turn of phrase.
Liberals like my tearful friend see things very differently. They feel that conservatives had “hijacked” the country and ignored the needs and goals of the “common man.” Liberals believe that conservative “intolerance” has sharply divided the country requiring affirmative action in schools, the workplace and in government. They feel like the country was being run by “corporate interests and greed” to the detriment of “ordinary people.” Despite our crumbling economy and waning international profile, liberals feel emboldened and empowered and have gone so far as to suggest the President “destroy” the GOP. Liberals feel that, but for the actions of a stubborn and unpatriotic Republican House, “real” progress would be possible (though ignoring the fact that President Obama had a united Democratic Congress in his first two years in office). There is some truth in what liberals believe.
Most interesting in all of these concepts is the disconnect between the parties on corporate welfare. While the left condemns all things “corporate,” it is not a coincidence that George Soros is a huge Democratic Party supporter or that Al Gore has become incredibly wealthy as the point man for “alternative” energy companies. Both of these gentlemen derive vast sums of money from ill-conceived and ill-executed corporate welfare schemes. Trust me, the number of corporations receiving disturbing government handouts from both sides of the aisle is astounding and unforgivable, but for some reason (see media bias above) the corporate welfare of the left is ignored and unpublicized.
There is also a disconnect on tolerance. The Westboro Baptist Church is no more reflective of the current views of conservatives than the KKK (an exclusively Democratic group) was of liberal viewpoints a hundred years ago. Yet liberals have done a great job of casting Republicans in the role of racial bigots that is solely a white male party. Even as they read this sentence liberals are telling themselves “damn straight.” I won’t regurgitate what I have written about at length in other posts, but Martin Luther King Junior NEVER spoke about affirmative action and sought purely equal treatment of all. I think that he is turning over in his grave watching the mental and statistical gymnastics that we put ourselves through today to create and monitor “diversity.” Diversity should be an emotionally neutral word because it should be one gauge of lack of discrimination and not a tool used to push forward a new agenda of discrimination.
For once I have no solution. Neither side is speaking the language of the other side or trying to listen to the real message. We have speed of light methods for distributing data, news and other information that makes it easy to feel that violence, death and disease is simultaneously much closer and much further away than it truly is. This rapid reporting has had a fundamental impact on American politics further fracturing an already divided electorate. Conservatives are feeling disempowered. This is not good. Conservatives have been the driving force behind the American economy for generations and I don’t have a whole lot of faith in the current Administration’s economic policies.
“I want my country back” is the voice of despair of those from all walks of life wanting to feel a part of their country yet feeling like they are losing touch with the direction of out politicians. “I want my country back” expressed how protesting college students felt during the Vietnam war. “I want my country back” should be a rallying cry for all of us to draw closer together instead of pushing each other further apart, unfortunately war has always proven to be the only vehicle guaranteed to patriotically unite this country. I hope it doesn’t have to come to that.