I was talking with someone after the State of the Union address with whom I share very few political positions. We respect each other and I always enjoy our discussions, but we are political opposites. This was not an angry or contentious discussion by any means, but toward the end I realized, perhaps for the first time, that our views of the condition of America are as opposed as our solutions.
From my view, there is a rightwing- fringe movement in America and that has captured the center of Republican-conservatism and has moved it toward an extreme ideological edge. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, in particular, have become focal points for that movement, and they fan the belief that America is in such dire straits that we are likely to implode or explode at any moment.
They sincerely believe that liberal economic and social policies are taking us to the brink of extinction and that our demise will be fast and furious unless a completely conservative direction is taken in 2016.
They believe that health insurance mandates, immigration compassion/reform, Dodd-Frank regulations on Wall Street, and clean energy development is the agenda of a socialist President who is Hell bent on destroying production, privatization, and wealth accumulation in order to create a fascist, nanny-state.
And they mean it.
Allow me to clarify my own position. I have grave concerns and levy criticisms regarding our state of affairs, but I also believe that America is a great country, with great accomplishments and I hold the promise of freedom and equality high. I also see that our history is peppered with contradictions and human rights failings that have to be overcome in order to improve; and constantly improve, we must. I believe that progressive ideology has been integral in moving our collective consciousness toward a greater realization of that destiny.
If our history has shown us anything it’s that we can endure missteps, misappropriations and mistakes that result from this complex experiment in democracy, but we must be vigilant in holding ourselves up to the light of justice.
My friend, as we were parting to go our separate ways, wrapped up his evening thesis by reiterating the severity of this liberal/socialist conspiracy. He believes that America will soon be laid to waste unless we drastically alter our course.
I was surprised by the conviction in his view, but my reaction was more quizzical than alarmed. “But….aren’t we in a nice place right now? Haven’t we been getting our food and drinks without incident? Didn’t the traffic lights work as you drove here this evening?”
I continued: “Do you feel that you could be threatened by missiles tonight? Do you expect your work to be there tomorrow? I mean…how bad is it for you and me, really? Shouldn’t our attention be on those who don’t have what we have right now?”
My point was that his reactionary view is not rational, but that’s when something occurred to me and it gave me a new insight into the ideological conflicts we are having. It occurred to me that the entire political belief system of his movement is predicated on the idea that the state of affairs in America are so dire that we must react swiftly and severely with the broad sword of extreme conservatism in order to survive.
The sky HAS to be falling for the imminent anarchy point of view to have any validity. We must be in a state of emergency, not an Orange Alert, but RED, or their measure of the economy, immigration, social justice, and foreign affairs becomes irrelevant.
We have serious concerns in America, domestically and abroad. I, for one, am very worried about what ideology takes the reins and either leads us closer to the path of peace and prosperity, or creates greater challenges for both. But, I also believe that solutions will come from vigilance and diligent attention to reality, as well respect for history and its outcomes.
Taking action is necessary, but our objectives must be clear. We cannot be complacent, but we must be patient. Our policies must be strong, but they must be equally as smart.