Monday, June 8, 2015

God, guns, grins and crazies

My wife, daughter and I recently had dinner with good friends.  At one point, I engaged in a conversation about politics during which we touched on the ever growing crowd of candidates who are running for the GOP presidential nomination.  (I often refer to that group as reminiscent of a clown car at a circus; they just keep coming out!).  Anyway, my friend, who had been a registered Republican for a good portion of his voting career, agreed with my assertion that the GOP has moved too far right (hence his departure from the fold), and that there does not appear to be any moderate Republicans in the mix for the nomination.  What continues to baffle both of us, is that there seems to be room for a fiscally conservative, socially liberal candidate, there seems to be a significant percentage of the population that describes themselves as such, yet neither party seems to be interested in presenting a candidate with those credentials.  Perhaps this lack of a viable candidate that represents the middle slice of the electorate, partially explains the dismal voting percentages that mark elections in America today. 

My friend disagreed with me when I posited that, since poll after poll demonstrates that Americans are far more liberal on social issues than the GOP platform, if more people voted, more Democrats would win.  The recent elections of a Democratic president (where 50+ percent of registered voters turnout),  compared to the increase of Republican candidates who win state and national representative elections (and where frequently 1 out of 3 people vote) seemed proof for my assertion.  But he countered with the concept that too large a percentage of voters do not vote based on their self interest, or on facts, or even on familiarity with the candidates and their positions.  As it was said to him by a colleague from the deep south, "Even though I know I would be better off, I just can't bring myself to vote for a Democrat".  His point being, more voters just might result in more of the same; poor logic and decision making.  His opinion was that we need a generation of new Americans, immigrants and the young, who appreciate their right to vote, invest time and energy in understanding the candidates and their positions and understand the critical importance of choosing wisely.  In his viewpoint, it has been the continual flow of immigrants into the United States that created our great country.  From the mid 1700's when people sought freedom in the "new" world, through the early 1900's, when people flocked to our shores looking for opportunity and freedom to today when oppressed people throughout the world continue to risk life and limb for the American dream.  The constant mix of the old and new, all jumbled together to create the United States of America.

Returning to the GOP field again, my friend just shook his head.  Is it really going to be Bush vs Clinton, I pondered?  Have we reached such a place that we can only look backwards to past names that served for our future leaders?  This is not to say that Jeb Bush or Hilary Clinton aren't fine people, but are there no other families in America with fine people? 

In his recent book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, Mike Huckabee makes the point that there are two Americas, the one that he believes he represents, those that live in the heartland of America, in small towns and on family farms, and the one that encompasses the east and west coast.  His world, filled with people who fear God, believe in the 2nd amendment, and eat meat and potatoes, is far different from the world of Washington DC, New York City, and Hollywood where they believe in secular humanism, gun control and eat weeds.  While I can't say I have read his book (I saw Huckabee on Bill Maher talking about it), I would agree that he does have a point; the melting pot that is America includes a wide variety of perspectives, people and positions.  To expect that our leaders would represent such a diaspora of viewpoints, and then work together to improve the condition of all Americans, when that condition varies so greatly, is a lot to expect.  The problem, and I am guilty of this as well, is that if we continue to focus on our differences like Huckabee does in his book, then we will never find the common ground that we need to address our joint problems.  As long as both sides act like children in grade school with their lines drawn in the sand, it will be very difficult for our leaders to make the decisions that need to be made.

Now, I don't know if Mike Huckabee actually quotes the bible when linking God with guns.  Frankly, I prefer the example of Jesus, who generally preached understanding, compassion and forgiveness to those that disagreed with us or injured us.  But, I do like steak and potatoes much more than tofu.  Is two out of four enough for Mike?  Is there room in his tent for people who eat "real food" but also think that more guns equal more violence, and that the fire and brimstone God of the old testament should be replaced by the love your neighbor Jesus of the new?  

Conversely, am I willing to sit down with people who believe that dinosaurs and man walked the earth 6000 years ago, and discuss the topics of the day towards finding solutions that we both can live with?

Or is that the rub?  Common ground requires common purpose.  When a significant percentage of the population believes, and yearns for, the rapture, is there any chance in agreement of where to go from here?

In the end, my hope is that the one commonality that we all share (Stannis Baratheon aside), the desire for our children's' lives to be better than our own, will enable us to sit at the same table, talk through our differences and find those areas of agreement that will result in all of our children living in an America that is even better than the one we have today.

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