Wednesday, January 16, 2013

“Aren’t We One People?”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“Aren’t We One People?”
January 16, 2013

Societies are complex. Nevertheless, they serve to unite people. There is, of course, an inclination among individuals to band those that are like-minded individuals. It manifests itself in groups ranging from street gangs to fraternities and sororities, to union and non-union workers, and to business and social clubs. But the bigger and more natural tendency is to become part of the larger community of citizens, not segregationists. The United States is the world’s best example of an amalgam of people from different nations, races and creeds. People from all over have come to these shores, and in a few generations most have been assimilated into a single unity known as the American people. Issues such as racism and sexism have moderated enormously over the past few decades; though surely have not disappeared. Xenophobia and homophobia still exist, but are not as rampant as they once were.

However, politics, commerce and the internet have countered these trends toward absorption. Technology has allowed marketing to become more specific in terms of reaching targeted audiences for specific products. Internet dating services play the same role our grandparents once provided – ensuring we stick with those of the same race or creed. But it is our politicians who have done the most to divide us.

For reasons that have to do with marketing, politicians compartmentalize us in myriad ways with intended consequences. They find it easier to address issues relevant to a small minority rather than discuss more important questions involving, for example, the real costs of specific entitlement programs; or what it might mean to our nation’s independence to gut our military. It is far easier for them to look upon immigration as an Hispanic issue, racism as an African-American issue, taxes in terms of fairness, and education from the perspective of teacher’s unions.

The victims of Hurricane Sandy become pawns of those in Washington who look upon the catastrophe as a re-election opportunity; so they load up a bill, allegedly designed to send money for a specific purpose, with pork, and then decry those who question its integrity as being unjust and insensitive. Despite soaring debts and deficits, no attempt, in terms of a tax or the cutting of a cost elsewhere, is made to pay for this additional expense. The same lies and deceits are uttered by politicians who have used the mass killings in Newtown to advance an agenda more likely to garner votes than results. Does it not make you squeamish and does it serve any purpose, other than to embellish Mr. Obama’s self image, to have children as props as he announces his proposed gun control solutions today? Would mainstream media have treated President Bush similarly, had he used as props new-born infants when discussing the morality of abortion? Instead of uniting a nation, these events, in the hands of politicians, divide us. The interests of politicians are not in finding solutions, but in advancing careers. The media has too often served as an accomplice, not a watchdog.

A good example of the latter was that of the Journal News, a newspaper serving Westchester and Rockland Counties in New York. What the paper did may have been perfectly legal, but certainly violated a moral sense. The paper was able to combine Google Maps with public information as to registered gun owners. They then published a map showing the names and addresses of those individuals. Their stated purpose implied a public service, but, in fact, served to increase tensions among gun owners and their opponents, and might possibly give rise to further violence. It also helped sell more papers, which was likely their real goal. They certainly did not serve the public interest.

When South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley appointed Representative Tim Scott to fill Jim DeMint’s Senate seat, a seat once occupied by segregationist Strom Thurmond, she and he were criticized – she because she was accused of acting in her self interest, which was probably true, and he by the Congressional Black Caucus because he does not blindly adopt their agenda. The daughter of Indian immigrants appointing an African-American to the U.S. Senate from a state that was the first state to secede from the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 is a remarkable testament to the way in which our nation has become a community of individuals. However, putting the interests of the American people first is not considered a politically correct position when a powerful (and hypocritical) political bloc may be at stake.

Politicians love to speak of America as one country, a place that is tolerant of everyone, with differing ideas, but where opportunities abound for all. Yet they campaign divisively. We are sliced and diced into the tiniest components – so that square pegs can fit into square holes. Caucasians are not just white, but old or young, male or female, high or low income, city, suburban or country. We are Hispanic, African-American or Asian. We are part of the 99% or the 1%. Or, perhaps we are part of the 47%. We are gun owners, or we are opponents. Whatever our differences and inclinations, they are exaggerated by those we have elected to govern us. We are not considered by them to be simply Americans.

We are all different and we have varied abilities, interests and aspirations, which is a good thing that should be celebrated. It is the creation of artificial barriers, mostly by politicians that is a concern. For a few days following 9/11 the country experienced a brief period of unity unlike anything we had experienced since World War II. Nobody wants another tragedy such as we experienced that fateful September morning. But I also don’t believe we need to live lives that have been arbitrarily carved up by politicians whose motivation is power and re-election, not what is right for the people or the Republic. Despite intentions to divide us, we are after all one people…are we not?

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