Daily Archives: July 23, 2010

Reflection: Let’s Talk About It

My major focus for today has been on having a dialogue. As I have tried to illustrate, the country is stuck in a partisan fracture that cannot be fixed unless we come together to solve our problems. This means finding a way to understand each other. In my opinion article I outlined several ways that this could happen and for “Afternoon Delight” I explained how it is possible to find common ground, evolution and religious roots explain how this is possible.

There are numerous examples of this happening in our society. First, Senator Lindsay Graham became the sponsor of a bill to regulate greenhouse gases. Eventually, Graham dropped off as the sponsor and the senate announced it would not proceed with the bill. Graham seems to have fashioned himself as the new John McCain when it comes to being moderate. Another example was given by MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews when he explained that President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil would often work together and be friends, even though they disagreed on a range of issues. One final example is Hillary Clinton’s appointment to Secretary of State by President Obama. These two were the bitterest of rivals during an election season, now they are able to work together in an administration. To top it all off, Sec. Clinton has been working very well with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in one of the closest relationships between both heads of these respective offices.

I find that it is hard to accept the possibility of working together to reach a common cause. I remember one time my mother told me that just once on a political talk show she wanted someone to admit they were wrong because they never looked at it that way. I firmly agree. We should have this mindset. Otherwise whether it is Kosovo and Serbia, Israel and Palestine, or even typical Washington politics without cooperation every idea will become a dead end road and a bridge to nowhere.

The song of the day is courtesy of Alvin Greene. I found it on Ezra Klein’s blog today. Quite entertaining!

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Filed under Democrats, politics, power walk, reflection, Republicans

Afternoon Delight: Starting the Conversation

This morning I discussed starting a conversation between the two parties to find a way to bridge the divide that is causing the disconnect. One of the debates that is taking place right now is the debate over differences and morality. I have posted several articles and videos that cover this topic. I think that our differences are not quite as different as people might perceive. Out of the evolutionary complex we see that we all originate from a similar place with similar characteristics that with natural selection evolve over time. This forms our moral sentiments. On one side you have those who see it as a gift from God and on the other you see people who advocate it as a means of natural selection.

Now I cannot settle this debate here because I do not have the scientific or religious knowledge to do so. What I want people to notice out of this pattern is that we all come from some sort of common origin. If you are religious or not there is still a common origin. If we can start by acknowledging this point then I think that international disputes, and some domestic ones, would be rather silly because it is the interpretation of differences that cause these problems. With common origins and rationality functions, solving problems might be easier then we first perceive.

In diplomacy, there is an old trick to start from your commonalities and then progress to your differences. In all disputes we can work to do this. For example, the START treaty is about to go through the senate for ratification, but some opposition by Republicans because it is not tough enough makes it complicated to pass. If we can start from a common point such as the objective of truly national security with nuclear weapons, then it will be easier to solve the problem.

Here I have posted several pieces for your enjoyment:

David Brook’s column for today about morality

Christopher Hitchen’s on minor differences in international relations

Evolutionary Psychology

See Andy Thompson’s video on Morality in Independent Reading sidebar

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A Bridge to Nowhere Goes Somewhere

I think that it is easy to say that “teachable moment” was the phrase of the day used on Wednesday by the Obama administration and the news media. I would grant the words some credence, but it seems to be a substitute for the words “we screwed up” for the president’s men. Soon it will become more popular than its old counterpart “we inherited it from the Bush administration.”

Nevertheless, with the slanderous accusations about Shirley Sherrod made by Andrew Breitbart and his merry crew with supporting cast of Rupert Murdoch’s media giant Fox News and the Obama worshippers over at the rival network MSNBC to quickly retaliate that it is all part of a vast right wing conspiracy, to borrow words from the current secretary of state herself, it is helpful to see that there is a real “teachable moment” in this media circus after all.

This lesson plan does not involve race relations, something that has been analyzed to death by, well, everyone with a television camera and a political office. No, I feel that there is a larger lesson to draw upon about our politics and social culture in the form of bridging the divide. In today’s world it is not all about the white and black divide, but the divide between the elephant and the donkey and the traditionalist versus the revolutionary.

To broaden this narrative, one can look to the voter/politician disconnect this election cycle. I live part of the year in Kansas, a very red state, so I have been witnessing many advertisements for conservative candidates. Many of which involve these political opportunists to say that they actually understand the state they represent and that they understand the plight of the “real American” as they via for their souls. The problem is that many of the policies they advocate such as cutting taxes, cutting federal spending, cutting Medicare and social security benefits, and other federal programs would hurt their constituent’s interests (especially elderly voters who rely on Medicare and normally vote in midterm elections).

New York Times columnist David Brooks summed up the fear of conservative voter this way, “There was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.”

So, why do they continue to vote for the GOP? The simple answer is they feel comfortable with them. Brook’s answer is that the progressive left appears out of touch with the average rural voter who has a family and attends church every Sunday. On the other side, the left is fearful that the right’s is anti-change. For the average single urban dweller in the Northeast who commutes to work every day returning to family values sounds quite scary. In reality, conservatives are just making sure that progress happens, but not too quickly as to be out of step with societal comfort. This is one reason why the Tea Party has formed. Besides touting conspiracy theories, they do make a good point about the general disconnect with both parties. It is Washington that both misunderstand, a common enemy it seems.

This is not only a tragedy with the political system, but it also occurs in other debates as well. In the religious versus the new atheists debate often the religious will not accept the academic arguments against faith and atheists will stereotype religious people as extreme zealots. I hardly think of a Catholic nun who visits the sick in the hospital as a zealot, but it does not fit Christopher Hitchen’s worldview. With the evolution of science and historical inquiry, old myths are being destroyed and being replaced by new ideas. Though exciting, it is also scary to know that your religious beliefs could become irrelevant tomorrow.

Even on foreign affairs, an area that I dabble in slightly, there is a disconnect with how people view events in other countries. For example, people are often not concerned with China’s currency (the remnibi) not rising in value since it could keep China more competitive or a how coup in Kyrgyzstan affects the war in Afghanistan. To most people globalization and transnationalism are just abstract concepts, but are not concrete ideas outside of internet usage.

Fortunately, the bridge does not lead to nowhere. For starters, progressives could motivate at the grassroots level using church poverty programs and to try and increase community involvement. This would prove that they are in touch with the average citizen. Conservatives could intervene in research by asking the ethical questions posed by most Americans and help with a public relations campaign to sell the ideas, making them appear less scary. In addition, conservatives could try and find way to explain social reform bills like healthcare and financial regulation so everyone understands it instead of demonizing it. Insults also should be reduced (though not dismantled). For instance, conservatives should not call liberals “elites” and liberals should not mock conservative’s traditional values. Respect is the best solution to this problem.

What I want is a dialogue. The real teachable moment here is to talk to one another. Mrs. Sherrod was able to understand her problem by overcoming her negative views of white Americans by understanding that it is not about race. Here, we must realize that it is not about partisan divides but about living together as humans. The political culture and society in general needs that dialogue. I believe this to be the race relations of our time. Let’s build the bridge together.

Further Reading and Watching:

David Brook’s Op-Ed

Shirley Sherrod Full Speech

Kyrgyzstan coup

Photo credit

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Breakfast of Champions: Friday, July 23

Good Morning,

Top Domestic Issue: Charlie Rangel Charged


Top Foreign Issue: Serbia, Kosovo, and the U.N.


Today’s Keyword/Theme: Disconnect and Dialogue

The two stories that I have selected for today emphasis a need to talk. The Charlie Rangel affair shows that Washington is out of touch with America. The recent U.N. ruling on Kosovo and Serbia’s rejection shows a disconnect between the two nations view on the world. With the recent Sherrod episode, it is important to realize that being out of touch does extend across all party and societal lines. The willingness to talk about these issues is also my major focus today.

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Filed under Congress, Serbia and Kosovo, the breakfast of champions, U.N.