Monday, August 15, 2011

An Aimless Tale of Advancing Age

The cornerstone of health care reform went down for the count. "Chalk up another one for the GOP, outwitting and outflanking the President and the Democrats." - from Robert Reich's blog on the subject. He's always a bit harsh, but highly intelligent in framing and discussing the subject. The single payer option was quite obviously the way to go at the time but the forces against people being equally healthy used the broken system to compromise a bill down to a level they expected and openly proclaimed they could beat in court. Returning the taxes of the most fortunate among us back to pre-Iraq War levels to help pay for the burgeoning debt threatening the very security of our country? Compromised away. The pattern here is that the benefits of the few outweigh the good of all.

Imagine, if you will, a Tea Party president in charge. OK, I'm sorry about that rather disturbingly uncivil image. Yet Iowans recently have imagined that very thing in the form of Michelle Bachman winning their straw pole. (Didn't Ron Paul come in close behind?) And Iowans know a thing or two about public policy that benefits the few at the expense of the many. Ethanol, the burning of food to create gasoline for automobiles that wastes more energy  than that created, is top on their list of objectives. Bad for mankind, bad for the United States, but good for their corn farmers and their local economy. It is a stark example.

How did a "democracy" come to represent the few over the many? It is a systemic failure I have touched upon before.

I watched a show on A&E entitled The Killing of Bin Laden. That dramatic picture of President Obama and his staff watching the mission unfold shows a bit of concern around the table. Intelligence estimates were apparently only at 60% that Bin Laden was in the compound. Obama himself had lowered that in his mind to 50/50. Either Bin Laden was there or he was not. Yet no compromise came forward that was dependent on what the Tea Party would think or the farmers in Iowa. The riskiest yet most effective and subsequently correct option was chosen. One man decided and would suffer the consequences if wrong, if the mission failed.

Are acts of war the only things that can be accomplished in today's democracy with any definitive decisiveness?

We are a divided people in uncivil times. It doesn't seem to matter that someone willing to compromise and bring sides together is at the helm. Seemingly, we are going to fight each other until we are all consumed in flames of failure.

I joined Facebook recently. It was the concept of Bowling Alone that pushed me over the edge. As I was filling out my profile and thinking about my former job and the negative consequences that it had on my health and wellbeing, I decided I just couldn't document the decades I spent at that job with mere dates without some form of comment. I decided on a compromise that is literary (befitting the job) and at the same time described my distaste. As two unyielding sides of our society in "superlative degree" clash to the detriment of us all in a time so important to us all, the quote keeps popping back into my head:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
—The opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

As you might guess from all the facts around us, our country's post WWII boom, our democracy,  our system of economics, our influence in the world and I myself, are aimlessly aging.