Monthly Archives: June 2012

Here in our little village of Anatevka

Every year I am delighted to be asked to emcee our annual Sturgis Falls Days parade.

It’s essentially our local founder’s day event and every year the Black Hawk County Republicans have a float, and the Democrats, as well, and every year there are several candidates from both parties running for office who work the crowd.

I enjoy offering an affirmative handshake to everyone as I truly love the political process and feel blessed to have good men and women on our ballots.

This year, however, a float suddenly appeared in the parade that said: “Marriage is one man and one woman. Support Traditional Marriage by voting NO for Supreme Court Justice Wiggins Nov. 6, 2012.”

I had started the announcement, which I am obliged to read, before I knew what I was saying.  When I realized, I am told that my disgust was clear.

“Vote for me!” is one thing, but “Don’t vote for him!” is quite another.  Not only do I disagree with the premise, but I don’t think a local, hometown parade is the place to tell voters how to vote on ballot referendums.

The “float” was entered as part of the initiative of the National Organization for Marriage and Iowa’s leading anti-gay spokesman, Bob Vander Plaats, to call for a ballot referendum to overturn the state’s marriage equality law.

According to Vander Plaats, opposition to gay marriage is not rooted in fear and hate, but rather in love and compassionate truth.

Awwww…that’s so sweet!

Vander Plaats went on to say, “If we want marriage equality, let’s just stop for a second.  Why stop at same-sex marriage?  Why not have polygamy?  Why not have a Dad marry his son or marry his daughter?  If we’re going to have marriage equality, let’s open this puppy up and let’s have marriage equality.  Otherwise, let’s stick to the way God designed it – one man and one woman, period.”

Bob, the answer to your rhetorical question is quite simple:  Your point is ridiculous.

What Vander Plaats and the “Traditional Marriage” supporters believe is that homosexuality is deviant, as Bob’s list of incestuous comparisons illustrate, and should not, therefore, be included in the exercise of civil liberties.  But, I am here to tell you (hold on to your Clairol for Men, Bob), “Homosexuality is a natural way of being, not a lifestyle choice.”

Millions of gay and non-gay people know that, but I’m pretty sure we’re not going to convince Bob and the millions who, instead, practice self-righteous, sanctimonious exclusion of that before November, 2012, therefore, I’m going to place my case on the legal issue of civil rights as clearly outlined in our Constitution.

Let me break this down….the Iowa Supreme Court ruled: “We have a constitutional duty to ensure equal protection of the law. Faithfulness to that duty requires us to hold that Iowa’s marriage statute violates the Iowa Constitution…if gay and lesbian people must submit to different treatment without persuasive justification, they are deprived of the benefits of equal protection…”

“Our responsibility…is to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.”

In other words, no act of legislation, no matter how popular it may be, can be added to the Constitution that will alienate any group of people from the civil rights it is designed to protect.  The Iowa Marriage Statute (or Proposition 8 in California) which declares that marriage is strictly “between a man and a woman” does exactly that.

The Constitution would become a worthless document if we allowed for such amendments and the role of the Supreme Court (national or state) is to make such rulings.  Regardless of how anyone feels about homosexuality or specifically the morality of same sex marriage, your individual freedoms are protected when the Constitution is upheld as it was in Iowa and they are threatened by any movement in the other direction such as what Vander Plaats promotes.

Recently, I posted the definitions of a Republic and a Democracy (“Wasted, Exhausted and Murderous”) because it is clear to me that a lot of people don’t understand the differences and that misunderstanding was now defining our modern political process. The distinction is important and the system of government intended by the Framers is being lost as we become more and more of a direct democracy instead of the representative democracy (a Republic) they created.

Nothing illustrates this confusion better than this debate regarding court rulings over the rights of gay Americans to marry. The argument against gay marriage made by Vander Plaats and NOW is the perfect example of how dangerous this misunderstanding has become.

Vander Plaats was quoted saying, “If they do this with marriage (re: rejecting the Defense of Marriage Act), every other one of your freedoms is up for grabs.”

What freedoms are those? The freedom to deny other groups of people their freedom?

The scary truth is that what Vander Plaats wants (and quite possibly a majority of Americans) is to control the Supreme Court and fashion the Constitution to fit their specific religious concept of morality. THAT, my friends, is what will threaten “every other one of your freedoms.”

Which brings us to the difference between a Republic and a Democracy. Vander Plaats states that the Iowa ruling is contrary to “the will of the people.” In other words, he feels that since the majority feels one way (that marriage is between a man and a woman) that it is necessarily true and therefore just.

For the record, once upon a time, the “will of the people” was that women should not be included within the political system by having the right to vote.  The intention of our Founding Fathers for a representative Democracy worked, however, and the 19th Amendment was passed.

I don’t want to confuse Bob with history and precedent, so let’s stick to the present.  An Iowa representative, Danny Carroll (chairman of the Iowa Family Policy Center) said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a test of your faith. Will you be found faithful and accountable to the creator?”

What he is saying is that the will of the majority, who are Christian, should exercise their voice so that the Constitution becomes exclusively a document to uphold Christian principles.

I know that a lot of Americans would be just fine with that; they feel safer believing that this is, in fact, a Christian nation founded specifically on Christian doctrine, but, please, read the Constitution.  You may come to realize why the collective genius of our Founding Fathers predicated their great charter on religious freedom, and specifically stated that we cannot establish a national religion; it would destroy the foundation of every other freedom it protects.

That is why they created a Republic- so that mob rule cannot hijack our country and cherry pick the freedom they fought for.  Our government is not the proxy of the majority, it was designed as a check and balance system of leadership, which protects the quietest voice among us as vigorously as the loudest.

I heard some people clap as the sign passed in the parade and I heard some people “boo.” One man got up to holler “That is stupid!”

Several people expressed disappointment to me afterward, and even a conservative friend of mine said, “This was not the place for that,” but I’ve also heard people say that “gay marriage rights are not a burning issue” in the upcoming elections and the debate is “a waste of time.”

My friends…in many ways it is the issue because it represents the very meaning of Freedom and Constitutional protection…and isn’t that what everything is predicated upon before we can even begin to fix anything else?

(All parade photos courtesy of Justin Scott Photography)

Malcolm in the Middle

I grew up in the middle of America, in the middle of the middle class and was weaned on the middle of political ideology.  I was given a perspective that lends itself to making reasonable observations and, perhaps, less myopic than a scientific approach might require.

I relate to Malcolm Gladwell, the journalist who wrote the books, The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, and draws sociological conclusions about human behavior, motivation and success from observation and statistical analysis.

His use of anecdotal evidence, however, allows his critics to denounce him for not being scientific and to dismiss his conclusions as “banal,” while I, on the other hand, find observation combined with stories to reveal patterns, compelling.  I am drawn to them, in much the same way we are drawn to great actors who have the ability to transform into someone new (yet real) by embodying behaviors they’ve observed.

With this process in mind, I would like to share my “observations,” from the middle, as they relate to the principle arguments in politics today; our economy, healthcare, stimulus spending and the Middle Class….

In 1980, President Carter’s grain embargo, along with bad weather and floods, conspired to put the Midwest, my home state of Iowa, in particular, into a serious recession.  Infrastructure was falling apart, farms were foreclosing, and land values were dropping.  When Ronald Reagan became president a year later, his implementation of “Trickle Down” to reverse the national recession gave industry a boost (and did reverse the recession), however, it did little to bolster an agricultural economy.

Even Iowa’s substantial industry was connected to argriculture with John Deere and other farm implements and therefore saw a serious decrease in production.  And while Reagan revisionists like to claim that he cut taxes and never raised them, he actually approved 13 tax increases and many of them changed tax breaks that were once afforded to farmers.

George Bush, Sr. as his Vice President even proclaimed that in Reagan’s 2nd term “taxes might have to be raised again,” but when Reagan did not raise them (and secured his legacy), Bush looked foolish as he began his campaign for president in 1988.  Iowans did not relate to George Bush, or perhaps they could tell that George Bush couldn’t relate to Iowans, but either way, Iowa voters already feeling disenfranchised by Reagonomics, went for Dukakis by a fairly large margin.

George Bush won the election, however, on the promise of “no new taxes” as that appealed to voters nationally, but, it was a promise he could not deliver as he came under intense pressure from House and Senate Democrats to reduce the huge debt and he agreed to some raises.  His refrain “Read my lips- no new taxes” was exploited by Pat Buchanan (and subsequently the press) and the public’s apprehension about him surfaced and they saw him as untrustworthy.

As a result, Iowa went blue and voted for Clinton and Bush lost his bid for re-election.  I have a theory that if you could get Bush Sr. in a room, give him truth serum, and ask him, “What do you really think of Ronald Reagan?” you might have to shield yourself from the spit that will launch from a vitriolic, obscenity laced tirade.

Iowans are resilient people; a quality of rugged, midwestern work ethics and stubborn Hawkeye pride and the state began to recover by 1990.  Hard work, good crops, cooperating climate and a streamlined industry rebuilt Iowa into a leaner and stronger economy and Iowa’s new template would now weather the worst of times yet to come.

A decade of relative prosperity followed galvanizing Iowa’s economy and once again, Iowa went blue in 2000, voting by the sliver of a whisker for Al Gore.  The fact that it wasn’t a wider margin was indicative of the fact that Iowans are, by nature, conservative and did not like the…naughty proclivities of President Clinton.  In fact, Iowa was a pretty good barometer for the rest of the nation as Gore received more popular votes than Bush by the slimmest of margins; margins so slim that it was possible for Bush to…well, we won’t get into that here.

One of Bush Jr.’s first directives in office was to engage Reagan’s Supply Side theory by implementing a tax cut that lowered taxes, to any substantial degree (4.5 %), for Americans at the top of the economic pyramid.  While most Americans did receive a small break, it was no more than a smokescreen to assuage anger since many other costs were going up, healthcare costs being one of the greatest examples.

Personally, while I did see $400 come back from my taxes, my family healthcare costs rose 45% from 2004- 2008, without any discernable reason except to widen the margins of insurance providers.

The question, however, remains, “Did the Bush tax cuts work?”  Well… there was an initial bounce from increased spending, but, it did not create jobs and an economic slowdown followed.  The tax cuts, for the record, were opposed by the Bush administration’s own Economic Advisement Council and a memo was sent to Bush stating:  “These tax cuts will worsen the long term budget outlook…will reduce the capacity of the government to (invest) in schools, health, infrastructure, and basic research… and generate further inequalities in after-tax income”…and that they did!

The view from the middle isn’t strictly about the Midwest, it is about the Middle Class, and unemployment rose significantly within their ranks while the wealthy got wealthier (surprise!) from a feeding frenzy off a market with lax regulations.  The divide, across America, between rich and poor grew to its widest gap in history.

The average American observed a new, even wealthier, class emerge as giant new homes were being built
and the suburban ranch houses in once considered well-to-do neighborhoods were now only starter homes.  The bar was raised significantly in terms of what constitutes affluence and Americans, true to our nature, wanted to be part of the success.

People wanted to feel connected to the “American Dream” and the finance world was all too happy to oblige.  More people bought homes outside their means (after all, they were being told that they could) and the sparsely regulated market was luring them in with subprime bargains that borrowed against the inevitable equity that would accumulate.  Of course the brokers knew that no market grows forever without eventually leveling, but they were, in the meantime, making big money.

People borrowed on credit to buy the toys (flat screens, i-Pods and Playstations) being waved in front of them and went to better restaurants, they took bigger vacations and made more home improvements while they traded home equity to make it happen.  The financiers knew the collapse would come, but they would be able to weather the storm until recovery, so why not keep the gravy train moving along?  In fact, the investment class profitted from collapse with clever short schemes and when financial Armageddon set in, the financiers knew, all they would have to say is, “Those people signed their names on those contracts!  We didn’t force them- they should never have bought what they couldn’t afford!”

Sound familiar?

Two wars were costing us 300-400 billion dollars a year with less revenue to the tune of nearly 4 trillion dollars over 8 years, while most Americans were paying a higher cost of living, going into serious debt ,and the housing market was selling derivatives upon derivatives and about to go bust.  The wealthy were not expanding business, rather they were expanding their holdings, productivity fell and un-employment rose.  BOOM!  Collapse!  By October of 2008 we were knee deep in a recession that was only going to get worse before getting better, and while recovery ebbs and flows today, the reactions to it remain contentious.

Even Bush saw stimulus recovery as necessary and enacted the first giant package as well as the initial bailouts of the “Too Big to Fail” corporations.  Obama inherited a financial catastrophe and essentially continued the recovery platform that Bush had initiated, but as partisan politics go, we tend to hold the party accountable that is in office rather than look at even immediate historical evidence.

The divide between left and right became truly hostile when the healthcare debate began.  My personal feeling is that access to medicine falls under the auspices of government in a great and powerful country (and I personally was disappointed because the bill didn’t go far enough) and I subscribed to the numbers, and my own experience, that showed how much we were currently spending on un-managed healthcare (and wasting).

I hear consistently from the right wing that “America is on the wrong path under Obama” but I have to wonder what was the path we were on before the Obama Administration?  The Romney/Ryan/Boehner/et al economic plans imply that we should go back to the neoliberalism (trickle down policy) that padded and protected the pockets of the wealthy while leaving the rest of us vulnerable to the greed that ALWAYS results.

Some Republican candidates said during last year’s campaign that we needed to “stay the course” and weather the disastrous recession and allow for a Machiavellian “adjustment” where we thinned the herd to re-balance the system.  That’s great…unless you’re one of the herd.

The point is, the middle is where it’s at, but the middle in America is being squeezed into non-existence, not only economically but ideologically, as well.

And if history teaches us anything, it’s that understanding, solutions and eventual progress comes from the middle…and just a little to the left….:)

Tree Huggers, Tea Baggers, and Baby Seals

I don’t like extremism.  I’m not so far left that I can’t recognize left wing extremism and I will acknowledge that sometimes I cringe at their antics.  I have remarked, “You know you might be taken more seriously if you weren’t in a thong with a feather boa while protesting the chemical plant.”

Usually, the far left stages dramatic support for people, things and policies that they feel would otherwise lack a significant voice; the environment, children, animals, the impoverished. Or they protest war.  Usually, it’s an event where some protestors might maneuver a tugboat in front of a whaler, or put flowers in the muzzle of a rifle.

Or, they’ll sleep in a tree to keep it from being cut down (there is a reason, after all, they are called “Tree Huggers”).  Their method is designed to bring attention to a civil cause.

I usually agree with their premise, especially with environmental and human rights issues, but I must admit I’ve never dressed as a baby seal to lie across the steps of city hall.  I would’ve joined the “Occupy” protest, but in my town it wasn’t more than a half dozen people spending a little time before dinner carrying placards in front of a Wells Fargo ATM.

But the far-lefties, with all their flamboyant pageantry, don’t scare me…. not like the extremists on the far right.

The extremists on the right dress up in fatigues and run drills in the forest carrying AK-47’s.  They preach for theocracy and obstinate foreign policy.  One of them took his concept of agrarian liberty so far that he blew up a federal building killing hundreds of innocent souls, including children.  A few have murdered doctors who had performed abortions.

Believe me, I understand that they are fringe and do not represent the majority of the right wing or even most other extremists, but the trouble is that I can’t tell the difference until they carry out their crime.

And I’m not turning a blind eye to “The Weathermen” and “Students for a Democratic Society” who cropped up in the late 60’s and were as angry as any reactionaries can be. While militance seemed to be a part of the national fabric in those days it was still as dangerous and many consequences undermined their own objectives.

Anger, whether from the left or right, can make people feel stronger and can turn into righteous indignation which can then lead to absolving oneself of heinous acts…like blowing up buildings or murdering doctors.

Extremists have to include those that call themselves “Birthers.” They aren’t violent, but their agenda is not to protect anyone or anything as it is for my friends dressed as seals, rather it is demagoguery to challenge the fact that someone became President who wasn’t a white, conservative, male.

In their on-going quest to prove that Obama is not a US citizen by birth and, thereby cannot actually be our President, they are no different than Black Helicopter conspiracy theorists or UFO chasers who uncover new X Files; their mission was drawn before a shred of investigation and everything they uncover only supports a foregone conclusion.  It is evidence hatched from hearsay from other conspiracy theorists.

That’s my problem with the Tea Baggers, too.  Their commitment to truth is just as thin and often I can’t tell them apart from the extremists who allow their anger to go too far.

Yet, many candidates in the Republican Party continue to court them and they are actually dictating the direction of the party; writing a contentious platform which castigates anyone who attempts bi-partisan cooperation.

That’s why I don’t like extremism of any kind…but that’s also why some extremists scare me more than others….

Fairy Dust

I’ve been watching politics for several decades and there are trends that I have noticed that stay pretty consistent.

When George Bush Sr. was campaigning against Michael Dukakis I heard my father coin the term “Political Fairy Dust.”

It was his dismissal of a strategy that he noticed every election cycle; Republicans always promise “lower taxes,” and will “improve government by getting rid of wasteful spending” and they promise to re-design the programs that Americans consider important (like education, Social Security, Medicare), while de-regulating business to create economic growth.

They do this by using “conservative values” that apparently bolster everything from patriotism to solving a budget crisis.  My father noted that they get elected on those promises-  I mean who doesn’t want to pay less and get more??

What happens, though, is that there is no magical fairy dust to improve programs or to implement promises when budgets are cut or eliminated.

Taxes may get cut, as Reagan initiated, but a closer examination shows how he created a deficit that he compensated for by eliminating tax breaks for lower incomes.  The Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, increased burden on lower incomes and the Tax Reform Act of 1986 to “simplify” the tax code essentially raised the bottom tax rate by 4% while lowering the top another 22%.

In theory, he could say that they were tax cuts, since the total percentage was lower, but the burden fell to everyone but the wealthy.

Education isn’t improved when it isn’t well enough funded and government can’t effectively respond to disasters when emergency relief agencies have been dismantled to cut costs (as was the case under President Bush).

When watchdog agencies are eliminated because of de-regulation how are Americans protected from being swindled when the free market gets too ambitious (derivatives, toxic assets and loose restrictions on subprime lending)?

What then happens after years of neoliberal economics (Trickle Down) is that Americans get fed up when they see the investment class lining their pockets while the services that have helped many of them to survive are now less effective or have disappeared…and that’s when Americans puts Democrats in office.

But…the turnaround from the policies that created inequities never comes fast enough and Republicans immediately deploy their consistent spin: “Look at how the Democrats have lost your jobs!”

If taxes are proposed, for those who can afford them, to re-build the broken infrastructure or if stimulus is invested to create jobs, Republicans are ready and waiting.  “Look!  Now they’re raising taxes and spending more!!”

Bill Maher compared this maneuver to a Three Stooges short where they first sneak rats into a person’s house and then show up the next day as exterminators to take care of the problem.

Clinton was elected because George Bush Sr.’s false chestnut, “Read my lips, no new taxes” was exposed, but, Clinton bucked the trend because he was closer to conservative economic values than most Republicans.

I’ve always felt that he was hated by Republicans because he was more fiscally conservative than they were, yet as a moderate Democrat he kept government programs in place and shared the prosperity while balancing the budget and creating the surplus that George Jr. squandered by cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and simultaneously entering two wars….but I digress…

Now, I don’t want to say that Americans aren’t wise, but we have a very short memory.  We are witnessing today how many people don’t seem to remember how we got into a deep recession, and Iraq without a strategy, and so the drumbeat of “lower taxes” and “smaller government” resonates again.

There is a local race for the Iowa legislature and I went to the Republican candidate’s website to see what his positions were.  They echoed the same rhetoric of every Republican for the past 30 years, and deafeningly so over the past 6.

He says that Republican leadership will improve education by attracting and retaining quality teachers.  He believes that we must lower income taxes and eliminate corporate taxes; this will improve employment by encouraging new business and when it comes to entitlement programs he’s going to demand reform.

I am always struck by how education will improve when we don’t budget enough for it.  Teachers, like everyone else, are attracted to better salaries and Iowa ranks 31st in beginning teacher salaries.  That’s not very good.

There is a philosophical difference between the left and the right regarding education.  On the right, education is a line item; on the left education is not viewed as spending, rather it is investment that ultimately innovates, creates and bolsters our economy.

The website offered:  “Eliminating corporate taxes will bring new business to Iowa.”

What it will do, for sure, is decrease state revenue, but maybe that’s irrelevant if it attracts new business.  Yet, South Dakota has no corporate income tax and ranks near the bottom in terms of attracting new business, so…maybe there are other factors.

Maybe businesses come for the services and quality of life a state can provide because of revenue.  For the record, Iowa, when under a Democratic legislature, ranked 8th in the nation in terms of job creation during the worst recession in over 70 years according to the US Chamber of Commerce.  And that was with a high corporate tax rate of 12%.

Lowering taxes to create jobs…makes sense, doesn’t it?  The thinking is at least logical:  If people have more money in their pockets, they’ll spend more, increasing demand and therefore increasing the need for production and the creation of jobs.

Lowering personal taxes does create an initial and temporary economic boost, but the ripple effect that leads to businesses expanding and thereby creating jobs is years out at best.  Incremental private sector spending does not “stimulate” an economy out of a recession.

As for wealth creating jobs, any sentient human being understands that no one goes into business to create jobs; they go into business to make money.  Fine.  But hiring is the last resort.

Finally, what about entitlements?  The truth is, Republicans, once elected, never actually change welfare because their constituents use it (and allegedly abuse it) as well as liberals and Democrats.

Furthermore, entitlements are not quite the burden that we’ve been led to believe.  The number of Iowans that use, or have at one time used entitlement programs of one kind or another, is very high, yet those abusing the system are less than 2% according to government fraud agencies.  Most recipients use them to bridge the gap to find work; to put food on the table during that time; to become rehabilitated; or to join work programs designed to improve their situation.

What may happen next is that this election cycle could follow the same old script…but the script could change if the electorate wakes up and calls out politicians for making false promises that lead us further down the rabbit hole.  And by looking at history, even if it’s only from the past 30 years, to determine what really happens and what doesn’t.

We must start electing leaders based on concrete ideas forged from real information and not just the talking points from the “Handbook on How to Get Elected.”

We must stop believing party rhetoric and double talk.  Unless, of course, a candidate does have fairy dust.  If any do I would feel confident supporting them, regardless of their positions.

First, however, they will have to prove it by elevating a sanitation truck…or by making Charlie Sheen enter the priesthood….all I ask is that it’s magical….their call.

The Mosque of Zero

This weekend I was in a conversation with a politically conservative friend and we discussed the former controversy surrounding the Islamic Cultural Center built in the area of Ground Zero.

Even though the controversy more or less subsided after it opened last September to very little protest and many conservatives have submitted that it was within the parameters of religious freedom, our conversation underscored the ideological gap that remains between how the right and the left approach issues.  My friend still contends that the location of the site was in “bad taste and that it should have been built elsewhere” although he concedes the legal right that it can be wherever it wants to be (codes permitting).

He looked at me sternly but sincerely.  “That land is hallowed ground to a lot of people and I don’t understand why the builders weren’t sensitive to that. This is painful to a lot of families.”

I responded, “I’m a former New Yorker and even have a brother who had just exited the train at the Twin Towers-  I get it!  I understand the sanctity of that land and what many people are feeling, but this should not even be a question of “taste” since it was not a shrine to pay tribute to the terror and murder inflicted by Islamic extremists; rather it is a religious sanctuary to uphold tenets of peace.

Islam isn’t responsible for 9/11 any more than Christians as a whole should feel responsible for KKK lynchings.

A cultural center is the best thing, in light of recovery, that could be put close by in order to reach that necessary understanding.” (Also, for the record, there is a porn shop even closer to Ground Zero and no one had a problem with that…I know this because someone told me so).

The mosque at Ground Zero may be a tired issue now as very little protest remains, but the core discrepancy in the perspectives of someone on the right from someone on the left seemed consistent as we seamlessly moved into a discussion regarding gay marriage.

My friend, again, being somewhat conciliatory said, “I believe that a gay person should be accepted completely by society, but marriage is a long held sacred vow between a man and a woman.  Why can’t they be satisfied with a civil union?”

I countered with, “A church, where that religious doctrine defines the contract of marriage in the manner you stated, has every right to refuse the service to a gay couple, but constitutionally guaranteed civil rights are not defined by religious constructs and marriage, in and of itself, is a legal relationship between spouses, defined as a loving union.  So therefore, why can’t any two, loving adults, enjoy the same respect and privilege?”

I don’t view my friend as an “enemy” politically speaking, rather I find him to possess qualities that I consistently challenge myself to uphold; showing tolerance and respect, a willingness to listen, and to look for answers that lead to a more peaceful and healthy existence. We differ, however, on how our core beliefs are realized. The reason I find these differences interesting is because they are consistently the same. Whether it’s the social ramifications of an Islamic center or the marriage of gay Americans, or the affordability of healthcare, or economic solutions, there is a fundamental conflict in how our brains process the problems and, therefore, the solutions.

My friend used a defense that I hear often: “A majority supports how I stand on these issues. Are you saying we’re all wrong and you’re right? What makes you right, especially when you are in the minority?”

Good question, good answer coming….

It isn’t a personal vanity that holds me to this perspective; it is the essence of what is written in our Constitution.  Conservatives may hold the majority on many issues and they profess to be the movement that supports individual liberties and democracy, but they are at odds with their own premise.  They are asking government to dictate law according to their personal interpretation of ethics and morality.  While that interpretation may reflect a majority that’s not how our system of government was intended.

Our founding fathers created a charter based on religious freedom and freedom of speech; the government they designed protects a minority as vigorously as a majority by being a representative democracy to ensure the civil rights and liberties of all Americans. It cannot be the determination of the majority to dictate what is right and what is wrong, rather we must respect our charter which clearly outlines the disciplines by which to avoid tyranny and to uphold justice (for all).

Millions of soldiers have died in defense of freedom and to amend the parameters of what constitutes our freedom is to negate their sacrifice.  Painful as it may be for some, freedom has a price that may, at times, offend their own sensibilities; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is extended to every American, even when others (even a majority) do not fully understand or accept those rights.

America’s freedom was not forged by bleeding hearts; rather it was cast in the iron of justice, where compassion is found in our adherence to the truth and what is right. Sometimes freedom is painful.

Okay…I can be verbose.  My friend said, “Good answer” and then smiled and added, “but I still don’t buy it.”

Stalemate.  So we tabled our disagreements and went on to enjoy 9 holes of golf where he roundly dismantled any notions I may have had that my game was improving. In a way, the fun we can have is more uplifting than the frustrations we sometimes feel from our political differences and from that, I regain my optimism that solutions are possible.

Now, if I could just correct that slice…