19 May 2008

Unless you have never been wrong.

Oregon's primary on Tuesday may be the harbinger of the autumn elections. Yes, I know; pundits, pollsters, and sound-bite aficionados are quick to point out that there's a near certainty that it will be a "split decision" 18 May 2008 rally in Portland, ORwhen the votes are tallied in the two primaries. Yet the rally on the banks of the Willamette River in Portland on Sunday (18 May 2008) seems to indicate that one candidate's campaign has captured the collective imagination of the voters.

Beyond the forecasts and the numbers, beyond the sorts of events that are sought by ratings-hungry media organizations, the fall election in the U.S.A. hinges on a unification that must be accomplished by whichever candidate eventually prevails. While each newly elected President enjoys a form of honeymoon with the voters and the Congress (that they often seek to characterize as a "mandate") the truth has been expressed in one of the most fundamental tenets of this country: United We Stand.

Angry rhetoric and subtle innuendo intended to undermine an opponent's support among the public surely make the challenge of unifying the electorate in 2008 daunting. Fear and intolerance have been fanned by those who seek to divide and conquer since before we began recording history. Students and observers of politics have no trouble citing examples from this election cycle, and doubtless there will be more to come. Yet history also teaches that there is a simple formula for moving forward despite the cunning practitioners who rely on misinformation to separate us into manageable-sized chunks for them to dominate: respect.

Mutual respect is what enables mature debate. Disagreeing with a person's beliefs or conclusions without being disagreeable is entirely possible. Only when I trust that while you disagree with what I say yet will defend my right to be "wrong" is it possible for us to approach each other with an open mind. Those who adamantly support Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), for one example, believe they have examined the issues and attained an understanding sufficient to advocate that his is the best course to follow - they act in what they believe is the best interest of the country. But so, too, the supporters of Senators Clinton (D-NY), McCain (R-AZ), and Obama (D-IL). Ironically, there's no way to know who's "right." One of the candidates for the Presidency will prevail, and be faced with steering the country for some number of years, and we will never have the chance to test the others under identical conditions, so at some level the disagreement will persist, we can only actually test one of them.

According to Francis Bacon, "Assuetude of things hurtful doth make them lost their force to hurt." Let us resolve to respect those we disagree with, and have fought with, both here in the United States and abroad. Let us hope that whoever voters select to take over the Office of the President of the U.S.A. in January 2009 has both the wisdom and support necessary to improve our lot at home and our standing in the world by renewing our unified strength. Let us recall, too, that one person in the Oval Office, even with their obvious influence and the power to make political appointments does not hold the key - the President deserves neither all of the credit nor all of the blame for how the country fares. Neither the voters nor the candidates know today what challenges will come tomorrow. The best we can do is use the tools of democracy to elect a leader, and hope the wisdom, instinct, and advisors of our President are up to the task.

We are the world's greatest melting pot.

We can allow ourselves to grow apart, isolated and increasingly vulnerable, or we can choose deliberately to grow together. Let us respect each other, and exhibit that respect, because despite our disagreements on nearly countless issues it is as true today as it was in 1776, we are still seeking to form a more perfect union, and we flourish by combining the myriad diverse strengths of individuals into a synergistic, unified democracy.