Who’s THAT guy?

November 2, 2012 § 1 Comment

Once upon a time, there was a man named Dr. Benjamin Rush.  Never heard of him?  Not surprising, even though he was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and helped ratify the Constitution of the United States.  He was beloved in his time, spent much of his medical career helping the poor, was an advocate for abolition of both slavery and the death penalty, supporter of education for boys AND girls, and while serving as a doctor in the Continental army, criticized and called for the removal of George Washington as head of the army.  (p.s.  That last was a bad career move.)

Anywho, he was also very close friends with a couple of guys who were a little more famous – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Adams and Jefferson were compadres during the signing of the Declaration of Independence, their time in France as ambassadors, and remained close until the presidential election of 1800.  Jefferson’s narrow defeat of Adams and their political differences left them bitterly estranged for years.

Nine years later, Dr. Rush had a dream.  In it, both Adams and Jefferson had retired, began corresponding and renewed their old friendship.  Excited and moved by the dream, as he was deeply bothered by their estrangement, he wrote to Adams and Jefferson each to describe it.  Adams and Jefferson received the letters from their mutual friend with open hearts and minds, began a tentative correspondence with one another, (it so happens, this was on my birth day and month – May 27th – emerald’s my birthstone, and I love jewelry, in case any of you are so inclined) and with the benefit of hindsight and wisdom to guide them, they became closer than ever.

Eerily, another part of Dr. Rush’s dream came true.  Rush dreamed that Adams and Jefferson “sunk into the grave nearly at the same time, full of years and rich in the gratitude and praises of their country.”   John Adams and Thomas Jefferson indeed died within hours of one another, on July 4, 1826.  Fifty years to the day after signing the Declaration of Independence.  Adams even died with Thomas Jefferson’s name on his lips.

I think it’s safe to say that Dr. Rush did his country a great service by helping these two living legends reconcile.  Thomas Jefferson and John Adams wrote volumes of letters to one another as a result (also a great birthday gift…from which I’m sure we could all learn a lot.

In January 1787, Benjamin Rush delivered an address to the American People at the American Museum in Philadelphia.  In it he pointed out what he believed was the misinterpretation of two words which he wanted to correct.  The first was regarding the word “sovereignty.”

“It is often said, that “the sovereign and all other power is seated in the people.” This idea is unhappily expressed. It should be—”all the power is derived from the people.” They possess it only on the days of their elections. After this, it is the property of their rulers, nor can they exercise or resume it, unless it is abused. It is of importance to circulate this idea, as it leads to order and good government.

The people of America have mistaken the meaning of the word sovereignty: hence each state pretends to be sovereign. In Europe, it is applied only to those states which possess the power of making war and peace—of forming treaties, and the like. As this power belongs only to congress, they are the only sovereign power in the united states.”

The second was regarding the word “independent.”

“We commit a similar mistake in our ideas of the word independent. No individual state, as such, has any claim to independence. She is independent only in a union with her sister states in congress.”

“”All the power is derived FROM the people.”  They possess it only on the DAYS OF THEIR ELECTIONS.”  (capitals mine.) Individual states are “independent ONLY IN A UNION WITH HER SISTER STATES in congress.”  (capitals mine.)

Dr. Benjamin Rush held many views with which I disagree.  Yet, I am grateful for and respect the common thread he wove throughout his life and through his legacy.  Bitter political enemies can reconcile and be friends.  The country would be better for that.  States can only be independent if they are working as a union with their fellow states in Congress.  The country would be better for that, too.  And if you need me to connect the dots between these lessons and recent events and behaviors of our leaders in times of crisis (I’m looking at you, President Obama and Governor Christie,) let me know.   I’m happy to help.

And please, don’t forget to vote.

Four More Years…Please?

October 29, 2012 § 3 Comments

I want Barack Obama to continue as our president for the next four years.  “Oh, my goodness, I am SO SHOCKED to hear this!” said no one who has met me ever.

Reasons range from shallow to profound, and from micro-specific to enormously broad.  Let’s start with the obvious.

1.  Obama is a friend of groups who have historically been ignored, dismissed, abused and refused basic rights of equality.

  • He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.  This broadened the ability of those (mostly women) suffering from pay discrimination to take action against their employers.
  • He endorses marriage equality.  He’s strong enough to stand up for and take ownership in protecting rights of the LGBT community.
  • He renewed the Combating Autism Act, landmark reform “assuring continued federal support for critical autism research, services and treatment.”
  • He supports and defends a woman’s right to determine her own healthcare and family planning choices.  He *gasp* TRUSTS them!  He *gasp* RESPECTS their right to determine their future and what goes on in their uteruses!

2.  Obama has stopped the economic bleeding for many (not all) segments of the population.  

  • He revived the auto industry with strong support from the Federal government.  After facing disaster, all three American auto makers are “increased sales of vehicles and have posted a profit.”  (see link.)
  • He’s enacted truly historic healthcare reform.  Pre-existing conditions are now covered, and so is birth control.  I’m not saying this won’t cost certain segments of the population or provide hardship for some – I know some small business owners struggling with these requirements.  It isn’t perfect.  It does, however, take a large burden off so many who had to choose between treating their cancer and feeding their families.  It’s a step in the right direction.
  • The economy has improved for many, many people.  Private sector jobs have increased for the last 31 months straight.  I agree with the author of this GQ article that it’s risky to tie Obama’s performance so tightly to a chart (requiring upward arrows always to convince), I still think it demonstrates how low we had sunk with the previous administration and how far we have come with the current one.

3.  Obama has a calm, assured and proven foreign policy.

  • He’s improved our image which was so devastated by eight years of George W. Bush.  There’s no question that Obama’s global popularity has taken a hit as a result of his policy on drone strikes, and the perception that the U.S. still does whatever the hell it wants to.  Yet, even though he’s less popular than he was four years ago, the Pew Research Trust survey shows the strong majority of the 20 countries polled want Obama elected over Romney.
  • The capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden was more than symbolic – it was reflective of the job the Obama administration has done in weakening and dismantling much of Al-Quaida.
  • He is withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan – just like he said he would.  He’s closing that horrible chapter.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I don’t delude myself into thinking he is the messiah or hasn’t made colossal blunders.  Operation Fast and Furious was awful in that it put weapons in the hands of arms traffickers – some of which have been used against Americans.  I’m not ready to say his handling of the Benghazi attack was a blunder or involved a cover-up, but I recognize the possibility that with time evidence might support that analysis (I really think it’s too soon to tell.)  Let’s not talk about his performance in the first debate.  I realize many of the jobs created are part-time jobs with few or no benefits.  I know under his administration the number of people on food stamps has risen instead of dropped.  I get it.

When I compare his record, however, to Romney’s history and his proposals for our future, I have no question that he is the right choice for the job.

1.  Romney said, and I really think he believes, that people who pay no income tax are parasites and victims.  Never mind his protests to the contrary after the infamous 47% video was revealed.  That he said it AT ALL is profoundly troubling, and I feel it reflects a disdain for half the population that is not only unfair and unfounded, but borders on perverse.

2.  The New York Times wrote a fascinating article about Romney’s management style.  I thought there were many things in the article that humanized him – even managed to muster up a sense of empathy in me for him.  He’s described as conflict-avoidant (many of us are), socratic (wades into details, loves to debate), and fiercely loyal, as represented in a quote I love:  “As head of the private equity firm Bain Capital, he was so uncomfortable cutting loose struggling employees that a legend grew: executives sent in to his office to be fired emerged thinking they had been promoted.”  (Of course, he had no problem firing people he’d never met or had any relationship with…) Yet the very things that humanize him in this article also make me think he’d not be an effective president.  Loyalty is great, but an inability to fire people who aren’t getting the job done could weaken his administration.  Avoiding conflict is understandable, but the Oval Office isn’t exactly a conflict-free zone.  And these two qualities have played themselves out in his campaign with his refusal to reveal details about his tax policies, his inability to separate himself from the crazies in his party, and his saying whatever his audience needs to hear, regardless if it contradicts previous stances of his.  Doesn’t bode well, in my opinion.

3.  Romney has a need to privatize things that borders on pathological.  Consider his stance on FEMA – many agree it’s an agency greatly in need of overhaul.  Some (including me) even see the potential virtue in having responses to disaster be controlled by the individual states.  Romney?  He wants it to be privatized.  Does he think there is ANYTHING the government does that should not be morphed into a for-profit venture???

4.  He is incapable or unwilling of separating himself from the nut jobs.  He continues to support Richard Mourdock for office.  (To paraphrase Jon Stewart, “Yeah, we disagree on rape and incest, but…meh?  Not a deal breaker!”)  He chose a running mate whose stances on reproductive rights are so extreme, women are essentially reduced to incubators, and microscopic clumps of cells have more freedom than do their mothers.  His stance on gay marriage is medieval and absurd.  While he used to be considered a moderate, and is contorting his candidacy now to appear like one again, he is catering and pandering to the parts of his party who are driving out any moderate Republican voices.  And they DO exist – moderate Republicans.  There are thinking, compassionate, strong Republicans who no longer feel they have a place in their party.  Think Olympia Snowe.  Think Richard Lugar – the candidate for Congress who LOST to Mourdock in the primaries.  Very, very bad to lose these voices, people.

There are so many more reasons I support Obama and reject Romney.  I’m sure many of you can come up with as many reasons why you feel the opposite way.  Here’s what I ask myself, though, when I step back and take the larger view into account.  Between the two candidates, who is more likely to want to compromise?  Who is more likely to WANT to work in a bipartisan way?  Because that’s how things get done.  The Republican leadership’s stated refusal to allow Obama to accomplish anything at all is embarrassing.  Yet Obama manages to walk the line of true governing by standing firmly in the center, angering people on both sides – conservatives AND liberals.  Extreme conservatives think he’s doing too much, extreme liberals think he’s not doing enough.  Oddly enough, that tells me he is doing something right.

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