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Candace Nippolt
Where's My Party?
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       In Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary, to be conservative is defined in part as: disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., and to agree with gradual rather than abrupt change. To be liberal is defined in part as favorable to progress or reform; favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression.
       In the political maelstrom which occurs every four years and is called the presidential election, I find myself becoming more and more bewildered. The run up to Nov. 5th consumes more and more time and effort, and it has been going on nearly two years, all told. And it seems to get meaner and meaner as it progresses.
       Politics has always been volatile, in every country, at all times. People are passionate about it, always have been, always will be. Through the years I have struggled to find where I fit ideologically with the two main parties in the country, and I have surprised myself to find that on some issues I am conservative, on some, liberal, and in others, middle of the road. One other thing I have discovered about the political process, which intrudes into private life as well, is the idea of the compromise. No one gets everything they want. In the dynamics of the family, with friends, at work - in almost every facet of life there is this give and take in order to get anything done, or to solve most problems.
       When that group of men from each colony known as the "Founding Fathers" gathered in Philadelphia to decide whether they would separate from the British Empire, differences surfaced immediately. Among the many issues covered, the question of slavery, which existed in almost all colonies, loomed large.
       Some representatives from northern colonies wanted to end it. Southern, slave-owning men said if it was insisted upon, they would not support the declaration at all. If the northern representatives had not decided to table that demand for future generations to deal with there would have been no United States. That was a compromise.
So you have to say to yourself; why is it such a dirty word? Does it imply weakness? Is the outcome obtained through compromise considered forever tainted and not valid?
       From my study of politics I've learned that in the past each party had liberal, moderate and conservative members. That meant that at the national level more business could get done by appealing to the different elements in each party for whichever issue was up for discussion. It didn't work perfectly, but it worked more often than not.
       It appears that in the last few decades the platform of each party seems to be a litmus test for each candidate and each member with no toleration for disagreement. It's a "My way or the highway" attitude which leads to a party cannibalizing its own people, in an effort to become more and more "pure." The trouble with that attitude is that people are too complex, and that gets us into the question of being able to change your mind, or as it is characterized, flip-flopping. Do any of us feel exactly about issues today as we did five, ten, fifteen years ago?
        If you took a position bac8k then based on the information available then and now find things changed, are you not allowed to change your mind? Nothing in this world is static, we all know that deep down. Just when you think you have a handle on things, they alter.
       Today, the two main parties seem at daggers drawn with each other thinking that a different opinion on an issue is un-American and a disgrace. But how does all the shouting, name-calling, slandering and threats change anything, or anyone's mind?
       One curious observation; historically, no matter what the label on a presidential candidate, by the time they get settled into office they tend to move toward the middle. Why? Because they must be the leader of over 200 million people of wide-ranging and diverse beliefs, and a president has to be president of ALL the people, not just those who share his personal beliefs or his party.
        One label from the British political system has always appealed to me. The party out of power is called: Her Majesty's loyal opposition. This means that all parties are supposed to be supporting the government and that that party not in control acts as a check and balance, but doesn't destroy the ability of the entire governing body to solve national problems. I know that concept is an aspiration rather than realpolitik, but it seems worthy of consideration.
       At this point, let me put a toe into the treacherous waters surrounding religion and politics. Life would be so much simpler if everyone believed exactly the same things, but that has never been the case. No religion is monolithic, all have divided and subdivided. In Christianity alone, the Harper-Collins Dictionary of Religion cites more than 2,000 Protestant groups in the United States alone, with more being created all the time. Whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc., representatives of your faith live in the United States.
        Way back when the 13 colonies were created, there already were Catholics, Jews, and a number of Protestant groups in residence. It is because the Church of England was the established church in England that dissenters such as those groups we call the Pilgrims and the Puritans left that country for America because they were not tolerated there. It's ironic that once established in Massachusetts they drove out people like Roger Williams who dissented from their brand of Protestantism.
        The Founding Fathers included non-believers and Deists in addition to those who followed mainstream religious tenets. Thomas Jefferson cut, pasted and created his own Bible because he didn't believe many things in that Book. This revised Bible is in the Smithsonian, so let's leave alone the idea that all the Founding Fathers believed alike.
        Having a deep knowledge of Europe's disastrous wars of religion which raged for centuries and involved everyone, the men who crafted the documents on which the country was founded wanted to be very careful that this particularly thorny issue would be addressed in broad ways. Article VI of the Constitution says, " religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." And yet, nowadays, candidates are not considered to be worthy by one party, unless they profess certain tenets of a particular Protestant group. Article I of the Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." that means that the government cannot establish a particular religion as the religion of the country.
       The English philosopher, John Locke, whose works were well known to educated Americans of the time, thought that government lacked "authority in the realm of individual conscience, as this was something rational people could not cede to the government for it or others to control." Let's remember that the treaty of Tripoli, ratified by the Senate in 1797, stated that "the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among many others, wrote about the need for the separation of church and state.
       Fast forward to today, it appears that if one is not a Protestant adhering to a certain group, one is not Christian at all, and thus beneath contempt. This attitude seems to destroy the right to one's own conscience and profession of faith, or lack of it. The nastiness of this continual argument beggars description. It leads us into the subject of toleration, which is not the same as approval. I have always thought toleration was a pillar of our society. Some people reject it totally.
       So, what do I do? What do the millions in this country who feel they are being left out because they don't want to pass a test to prove they can call themselves Democrats, or Republicans, or Christians, or Libertarians, etc.?
We have such huge problems in this country - locally, nationally, and internationally, and while we tear ourselves apart these issues only grow bigger and more people are hurt. What is the answer? I ask you, what is the answer?
Doing the laundry and reading Virgil
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Here We Go Again