I’ve got to preface this by saying I try not to post political musings here — but I’ll make an exception today given that our nation was founded on political musings and would do well to have more of it.
I have to admit, I love the 4th of July more now that I’ve had kids. I love taking the boys to the parades, the fireworks, etc. I love watching their expressions as the fireworks go off. In fact, I’d have to admit that one of the best part of having kids is seeing the world through the eyes of a child again. They offer you such an interesting perspective — and with one that’s nearly 2 and 5, I get to see the world through two very unique sets of eyes. For example, yesterday my wife and I took the boys to the Newport Aquarium. Nathan has started to really get excited about fish — so he spend his time running from tank to take pointing, clapping and telling everyone around him that there are fish in the tanks. Kenny on the other hand wanted to know about the fish. He had questions — lots of questions about everything he saw. Both are basically little sponges soaking up information about the world around them — just at different levels.
Anyway, getting back to the 4th of July. One of the habits I got into long-time ago is I like to read the Declaration of Independence over the 4th July and having just been to Virginia not to long ago in the cradle of our country — its been something a bit more on my mind lately. Anyway — this year Kenny and I read it together and talked a little bit about what it was that we read. He listened — though I’m sure he wanted to be doing something else. But its important, so I’m glad he listened. When I read this document, what I see in it is a group of idealist and a group with many dissenting opinions but somehow, came together in the span of about 5 weeks to layout a document that declared our independence. (As a side note, its actually very interesting to see the different drafts of this document — you really get the feel that these folks were writing this document within a national discussion). And yes, there were differences of opinions, some folks wanted to include the abolishment of slavery, others not — but this group of men were able to come together and make this work — understanding that this country would be founded on ideals and that it would be the discussion of those ideas — particularly dissenting ideas — that would continue to make this country grow. I think back to the start of this country and the political debates found in the Federalist papers and again, I see the work of idealists, working to shape the country and participate in a national debate. I wonder where this debate has gone. While freedom of speak is still alive and well within this country outside of politics — there seems to be a prohibition on original thought within the walks of Congress and the White House. We hear no dissenting voices and I wonder why. Where have the idealist gone and why are they not be attracted into politics. I look at the individuals leading our country today (I find it odd how many former professional athletes are in politics — I haven’t quite figured out how one translates to the other) and I don’t see idealist — I see people dedicated to party and politics and I don’t think its healthy. National debate seems to be centered around the parties themselves — meaning that there are really just two primary views being presented to the American people, the world, and I would argue that neither of these visions put the health of this country first. How do we change this…we bring back the idealist into government. This of course requires a decentralization of power away from the political party and putting more emphasis on ideas and debate.
This 4th of July, look at the political landscape. There are Senators and Representatives on both sides mired in scandal, an ammendment on flag burning, a debate on whether or not to eliminate the estate tax, etc. Are these the most important issues that we are dealing with today? I think not. We have a war, a growing debt, a trade imbalance, jobs being send oversees and a public infrastructure slowly being underfunded to death. We have children without health care, a real debate that needs to happen on immigration, decisions that need to be made about the environment and the legacy our country will leave as stewards of the land. There are many big decisions that need to be made — I’m just not sure these are the types of decisions that can be made without the idealists — those willing actually debate and then work together for the good of country rather than individual or party.
And in the mist of this — there are many things that my country is doing that is good — inspite of itself, many times just because the people of the United States simply make it happen — sometimes inspite of our current governments. I’m thinking about the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and its goal of improving education in this country and dealing with disease and poverty around the world. Also, I’m sitting here right now watching the Shuttle Discovery launch. In 9 minutes, a crew of astronauts will take the U.S. back into space to allow for the continuance of scientific discovery and with luck, a renewed interest in repairing the Hubble Telescope so we can continue to look at the stars and the world outside of our own.