Fate of country lies outside of parties

Monday, August 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:45 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

I was thrilled to get feedback by way of e-mail about last week’s column about forming more political parties. I know that some folks think that the two-party system is the only way this democracy can function. But just as I suspected, some people are clearly fed up with the two-party system. I understand the party loyalists, and believe me, if I knew any other way to get the politician’s attention I would certainly try it. But you can see that Ralph Nader has their attention, even if it’s in a negative way. He’s being called “the spoiler” because people are afraid he will draw votes away from the other candidates.

I read a comprehensive report on the 9/11 Commission’s findings, and it was pretty sobering. We are told over and over again that we have the most effective and efficient government in the world and that is the story that we want to believe. The fact that 3,000 people lost their lives in the 9/11 tragedy certainly presents a compelling case for overhauling our intelligence-gathering agencies, but beyond that I don’t have any great expectations that anyone will be held accountable.

Let’s face it. If we looked squarely at this commission’s findings, at all the ways in which conventional wisdom was not wise at all but was in fact a cover-up for incompetence, we would have to do something about it. Well, this is an election year, so any attempt on the part of anybody to do anything will be deemed “nothing but politics.” About 10,000 reporters attended the Democratic National Convention. How many were monitoring our intelligence agencies to see if this report was having any effect on the way they were functioning? By the time the elections are over, the commission’s work will be history and the politicians will be back to business as usual.

Party faithfuls will, of course, think that if their candidates get elected, things will get better. Frankly, it galls me that anyone should believe that the fate of this country lies in the hands of any two people. My position is that no matter who is elected, things will only get better if “we the people” take stock of our situation and get in control of it. My friends, think about it: Having the national media embedded with the politicians is not a good idea. Who is minding the store? Well, I’ll tell you who. Your local daily newspapers are. But are we paying attention to them?

You know, the folks that founded this country wrote up the kind of documents that if we adhere to them our civilization might possibly endure. To take that legacy and squander it, to me, is unconscionable. The people that come after us should have the right to enjoy the privileges inherent in our Constitution. For us to allow those who are willing to sacrifice all for money and power signifies that we are not worthy to be the protectors of such a legacy.

In essence, it all has something to do with an old-fashioned virtue called self-respect. It’s just not enough for some of us to sit around wringing our hands. We need to stand up, fling open the door, meet them eyeball to eyeball and let them know that we intend to defend and protect that is ours. All I’m saying is that it may be true that our political leaders will lead the country into hell in a hand basket, but let it be noted that some of us will only go kicking and screaming all the way.

I’m glad the protesters are in Boston, even if they are not being given much opportunity to be heard. I hope they will also be in New York for the Republican Convention. The important thing in any protest is that the individual will always know that when it mattered, he demonstrated, had the courage of his convictions and did what he could to make a difference.

It would certainly be good if someone in a position of authority had time to deal with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The terrorists are still out there and if we can believe some of the foreign press, more are being created by the minute. Hopefully, before it’s too late, it will occur to our government leaders that maybe they should take a look at some of our foreign policies to make sure that we really are the good guys that we think we are. There was a lot of wisdom in the old philosophy of making certain that your own house was clean before you try to clean your neighbors’ house.

One of the things most of us Republicans, Democrats and Independents share in common is that we want our children to grow up in a world where they have the opportunity to lead productive lives. It is our responsibility to shape such a world, one day at a time.

That’s why what we do today, and every day, matters.

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