Thursday, February 24, 2011

Extremism Ain't Working For Us

I don't know why, but I'm always amazed when I discover yet another evangelical writer hammering nails into America's right-wing platform. Most of these guys - and they're mostly guys - get more excited and animated talking American politics and economics than they do the Gospel.

It makes me wonder what I'm missing.

When I was growing up, my parents taught me to rely on the Bible as my principle resource for developing my worldview. Maybe that's because my Mom is a Republican, and my Dad is a Democrat, and they didn't want to spend their marriage quarreling over politics.

For years, they didn't even register to vote, since it would have just risked creating unnecessary strife in the family.

Today, however, I look around me in my Christian environment and see just about everybody reading off of the same script - and it's not the Bible. It's the script co-authored by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, with Red Stater's and the Koch brothers as editors and publishers.

It's a Grand Story

It's a script based on the incompetency of government, the purity of unregulated economic markets, the immorality of people who don't earn an elite salary, and the supremacy of a nation that didn't even exist during any timeframe the canon of scripture was inspired by God Himself.

Instead of God and Jesus, two Beings many conservatives respect, their heroes are the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville, the reluctant president George Washington, and the adulterer Thomas Jefferson. Maybe the reason God's Son doesn't get top billing is because He instructed a rich ruler to give his wealth away. Or because He's never voted Republican. Or votes, period.

Granted, the simplicity of right versus wrong, black and white, and conservative versus liberal make viewing the world a lot easier. Except things aren't always as simple as we think they are, are they?

Consider capitalism. Free markets give the illusion of working well until you get a crisis in the Middle East, and the price for a gallon of gas begins surging towards $4. Airlines then increase their fares, the value of SUVs tanks, and our tourism industry freaks out at the prospect of a ruined summer vacation season.

If capitalism was really as pure as some conservatives claim it to be, would the price of gas really be able to inflict so much damage on other industries which are equally legitimate?

Of course, at this point, right-wingers would say that volatility in foreign oil prices means we need to develop our petroleum reserves here in the United States. Which sounds logical until you remember that it would take the better part of a decade to get the necessary infrastructure up and running to replace our dependence on imported oil. Couldn't that time be better spent developing alternative fuels? What part of capitalism should be used to discourage innovation by favoring old-industry firms like oil conglomerates?

Conservatives have a far less dubious stance when it comes to unions, and the budget spectacle we're witnessing this week in Wisconsin. Back during the Industrial Revolution, unions helped secure health safeguards and employment standards that we take for granted today. However, whereas unions used to fight for basic worker rights, they've now lost their perspective as human workers have become liabilities to employers. It has become increasingly unrealistic for liberals to keep defending rising union wages and benefits when the private sector workforce is being decimated by corporate America's addictive hoarding mentality.

Oops. Even when conservatives are right, they can be wrong. You never hear their talking heads bemoaning the reality that most of the companies who've suppressed salaries and cut the most employees have done so with cash and profits to spare.

The Road to You-Know-Where is Paved With You-Know-What

Now, before anybody brands me as a fascist socialist, I think our democracy, despite it's flaws, is still the best government on the planet. Our economy, despite showing serious signs of weakness, retains enough integrity and remains dynamic enough to correct itself if we act prudently. Those things which are broken in our society have not malfunctioned primarily because the systems themselves have failed. Our economic and political systems were never perfect to begin with.

And that's what we need to realize. There is no perfect way to make money or govern people. Everything we create is flawed, relative to the degree with which we interact in it. We make mistakes. And we sin. The only part of world history that has been perfect was that indefinite timespan between Creation and the Fall.

So, since nobody's perfect, and since we do have some pretty stiff problems in our country, what's the best way to go about improving what needs improvement? Is it constantly casting blame, trying to legislate morality, and taking sides against each other working for us?

Since when have political and economic compromise become such dirty concepts? Who says our Founding Fathers didn't have to bury numerous hatchets before the great documents of our federation were signed? Why do the Nancy Pelosi's and Sarah Palin's of our modern pop-governance slug-fests need to be the standard-bearers of their supercilious minions?

If our problems are as grave as experts say they are, at what point should we recognize the need to quit cheerleading for our respective viewpoints and work to build upon common ground? By now, we all know what the right-wingers and left-wingers think about themselves and each other, and see how far we've gotten with this posturing and spin?

Parroting the evils of liberal economics won't do conservatives much good if our GDP gets swallowed up by the Chinese. Casting conservatives as evil won't save liberals if Social Security bankrupts our budget. As the saying goes, we're all in the same boat, and if it sinks, it won't matter what side you're claiming is the most righteous.

Politicians have already proven to be the most capable people at preserving their own self-interests. Why should conservatives - and people of faith, no less - continue to egg them on?

Remember: this world isn't ours anyway.

Not to waste - or keep.

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