Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Unbearable Dissonance

Many Americans today, just as they did 200 years ago, feel burdened, stifled, and sometimes even oppressed by government that has grown too large, too bureaucratic, too wasteful, too unresponsive, too uncaring about people and their problems. I believe we can embark on a new age of reform in this country and an era of national renewal, an era that will reorder the relationship between citizen and government, that will make government again responsive to people, that will revitalize the values of family, work, and neighborhood and that will restore our private and independent social institutions.

Ronald Reagan the accomplished actor and 40th President of the United States expressed those thoughts in one of his speeches. Reagan used his acting talents to the fullest while he was in office. His wit, vitality, and sense of fairness are well-documented, and most political leaders say he made a difference in the way the political game is played today. But, the one thing Reagan didn’t do was put the country on a course of reform that revitalized the values of family, work, and neighborhood. His political era is considered one of the greediest in our history.

There was certainly major economic success in the Reagan years, but the true political social reform that Reagan mentions is nowhere to be found. Our private and social institutions did experience change in those years, but the pace of that change is still not in sync with the ever-changing human psyche. There was more economic separation between the haves and have-nots during the years following the Reagan’s years, and much more separation in our perception in terms of identifying the motives behind our two political parties.

Social reform, as prison administer Mary B. Harris said, is a journey not a destination. Our political and economic systems are not fixed in a certain place or time. They expand as we expand. Our beliefs create that expansion, and our dreams fuel the consciousness units that make social and political changes a reality.

Susan B. Anthony said:

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations... can never effect a reform.

And, Marian B. Edelman, the founder and President of the Children Defense Fund, described our current reality like this:

We are living in a time of unbearable dissonance between promise and performance; between good politics and good policy; between professed and practiced family values; between racial creed and racial deed; between calls for community and rampant individualism and greed; and between our capacity to prevent and alleviate human deprivation and disease and our political and spiritual will to do so.

Our dualistic mentality is obvious in our political beliefs and actions, and our two party lawmakers are a shining example of the ineptness that exists in our dualistic system. Political separation creates social and political catastrophes. A social reformer is a political adjuster that has the ability to blend thoughts and instigate actions that turn democratic debacles into social expansion.

Edelman explains the process this way:

If we think we have ours and don't owe any time or money or effort to help those left behind, then we are a part of the problem rather than the solution to the fraying social fabric that threatens all Americans.

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

The challenge is to incorporate a sense of community in our diversity, and be flexible enough to bend in that wind of contrast. Stiffness is not a sign of strength― it is a sign of ignorance.

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