The blogosphere the past couple days is abuzz with hurricane coverage. There is a lot of finger-pointing, especially at President Bush, about the tardiness and ineffectuality of the government response to this situation. And these postings seem to beget an inordinately high proportion of angry, slashing, name-calling responses from Bush supporters; and thus, with the noise and silliness for which the unmoderated internet is famous, the giant turd of political dissention tightly stops up the swirling water of meaningful discussion.
Of course, it takes no keen perception for me to see a major conflict in this; the last presidential election was, and for many still is, like an open wound in our society. What seems significant to me is that in a time of crisis, a time during which we as a nation might normally pull together, we instead find this thing seething so close below the surface, running away like a cancer under a paper-thin layer of civility. The end result is that we are all angry and become more and more deeply divided by any issue that comes before us which requires the involvement of our political system. I wonder if this was not like the social climate before the Civil War.
I am mostly a centrist (though I imagine I appear leftist in today’s political climate), and I suppose I can lay claim to no greater objectivity than anyone else. But I earnestly try to see things from the point of view of those whose opinions I oppose, and I have increasing difficulty finding the decency and honor in what it is presently in vogue to call conservatism. The party that used to be about small government and personal liberty seems to have become about shoving a particular religious view down everybody else’s throat, about a restriction of liberties and a dismissal of those who do not get on board.
But this is a democracy and it’s fair to say that people have voted and this is what they want, right? Well, no. And that’s a keystone of what I have issues with. Bush campaigned as a moderate and portrays himself as a reasonable fella who would get along with anybody if they could sit and talk. But this is all for show. Any objective look at his record will find him to be anything but centrist. And he knows he is neither personally moderate nor motivated to pursue a moderate, centrist agenda (or even a libertarian-leaning traditional Republican agenda). He campaigned as a centrist because he knew he'd never get elected if he came clean with his views. And in this case I think the tactic sneaks out of the protected harbor of Typical Political Expediency and across the broad gray wasteland to slither ashore in the land of Dishonesty and Subterfuge. He does not sympathize with the common person, because in his own mind he and his friends are nothing like the common person. It should not surprise us, therefore, if his policies benefit the big people of his world at the expense--indeed, off the backs--of little people that pay the taxes. This is not what he says, but it’s the reality without the spin.
I’m quite ready to listen to arguments in favor of smaller, hands-off government; in my own mind I’m not convinced that it is the domain of government to be the solution to any problem someone chooses to put on its platter. And I’m happy to have applied a litmus test of sorts which demands an expectation of effectiveness of a program to meet its stated goals. But I’d feel better about listening to these things if the underlying enthusiasm and motivation didn’t all seem so mean-spirited, so seemingly focussed on closing open doors and denying things to people. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, with reasonable protection of others’ rights to same, seems to me a good template for governmental interface with society; enforced adherence to the Ten Commandments and fealty for little people before the Official God seems to me entirely off point and almost exactly what we’re currently at war to rebut.