I wish I could say that this post would answer all our questions plaguing our country. It won’t. What this post hopefully will offer is a design for unifying our legislative and ideological process more efficiently. It is neither complicated nor particularly innovative. It is simply an effective measure toward success.
Currently, when we approach an issue in America, we assume that the “other” party, which ever party one considers his “other,” or group or organization will have the wrong answer. We are so incredibly certain about our correctness at every turn. We have no intention of discovering new information; we simply want people to agree with us. If they don’t, they are necessarily wrong and simply require education. We walk in with a fight in our hearts. We automatically presume we know best. The problem is that if we begin from that standpoint, we are the ones who are instantly wrong.
If we want harmonious and constructive work to begin in earnest in America, we must begin by walking in with five questions:
1. How do we each define the issue in front of us?
2. Can we agree not to move toward a resolution until we are all satisfied with the definition of the issue?
3. Do we understand that no one person or group is going to get everything he or she wants in the resolution?
4. How do we work together to resolve this issue in a manner that would benefit the greatest number of Americans?
5. What are your ideas? I am willing to listen to you fully, then thoughtfully consider them before responding graciously.
If we start here, then we can reduce the polarization in this country. Any adamant statement in the process that starts with, “Well, you/your party did this…” is not effective. It is counterproductive toward future work together. It brings the issue into the past and necessarily demands that the focus on the work in the present be forgotten.
If we want unity and creativity to move the process forward, we must start by listening, not talking. When I was a boy, my father insisted that my brother, David, and I learn this poem:
“A wise old owl lived in an oak.
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like this wise old bird?”
Good guidance for a difficult time, I’d say. If we approach one another with a willingness to listen, to understand that others have differing views than we do that do not make them wrong or bad, then we can build something great together. Until that time arrives, we will continue to watch the chasm between our fellow citizens widen and deepen. If that happens, all of us lose, no matter how “right” we thought we were in the first place.
I finally figured it out! It’s taken me a long, long time to define what the issue is in United States politics, but I’ve done it! I have the answer! We are not moving from a democratic republic to an autocracy or theocracy, or toward socialism or any other known form of government. The form of government we see looming on the horizon is much worse. We are moving toward a Neurocracy!
An increasing number of our leaders have lost touch with their constituents, authentic, reasonable American values, and the purpose of government so deeply that their neuroses are taking over. Narcissism, bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, compulsion, obsession, and myriad other diagnoses are running rampant everywhere throughout our local government to our national leaders of all parties.
Add to this fertilizer of ideology the mass hysteria created by abusive and judgmental language and philosophies, the willingness of the media to feed these delusions, and we have the beginning of our American Neurocracy.
So for those who would like the definition of this new term, here it is:
Neu-ro-cra-cy /njʊə-rəʊ-krə-si/ (noun) Greek neuro-: sinew, string, nerve; -cracy: strength, power. A government run by many individuals who suffer from myriad neuroses (mental or emotional illnesses), and who attempt to make laws to satisfy the needs brought on by these conditions. ~ The James C. Glica-Hernandez Dictionary
Hopefully, this will help clarify the issue in politics and government so that we can set ourselves toward treating our national woes by replacing those suffering from these conditions, and repairing our overarching ideology before this national diagnosis becomes more of a reality.
“Xenophobia – A fear of or aversion to, not only people from other countries, but other cultures, subcultures and subsets of belief systems; in short, anyone who meets any list of criteria about their origin, religion, personal beliefs, habits, language, orientations, or any other criteria. While some will state that the “target” group is a set of persons not accepted by the society, in reality only the phobic person need hold the belief that the target group is not (or should not be) accepted by society. While the phobic person is aware of the aversion (even hatred) of the target group, they may not identify it or accept it as a fear.” ~ Wikipedia (Oxford English Dictionary reference)
In research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1994 , and research in Belgium in 2000 , scientists found a strong correlation between authoritarian personalities and groups described as conservative, and xenophobia. Those identified in various ways from conservative, authoritarian, or fascist, genuinely believe that they are morally, genetically, or otherwise superior to those toward whom they express their extreme fear.
Certainly not all who express strong beliefs in one area or another should be considered xenophobic. Honest, good people from all walks of life are encouraged, and even obligated to participate in their governmental processes. Their views may be diametrically opposed; yet, their divergent views maintain a healthy dialogue in our country. There are those, however, whose extreme views teeter on, or fall over, the boundary of constructive exchange.
With the aforementioned research to consider, those who are more open to other cultures, races, and groups should exhibit compassion for those who have the psychological challenge of xenophobia, in part because the research also describes that some who exhibit the xenophobic behavior suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. In addition to compassion, though, we must also recognize the symptoms of this condition and listen to the message with an educated ear.
As we follow the political machinations of the 2012 election process, we have an opportunity to assess whether groups exhibit this xenophobic-based authoritarianism, and if so, how the larger population should respond. There are few tell-tale signs of this condition. Their rhetoric includes correlations to:
- cultural conservatism;
- a desire for social dominance; and
Additionally, those who exhibit these xenophobic qualities also are found to have a negative correlation to empathy, tolerance, communality, and altruism. Do we see those qualities exhibited in national politics today? If so, how?
Fascism, authoritarianism in its extreme, is defined by Merriam-Webster in the following way:
“A political philosophy, movement, or regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
None of our candidates have suggested that a fascist government is what the United States needs; however, some aspects of fascism are becoming increasingly visible, including the stated desires of “severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” by those who believe their traditions and values are most important. These beliefs would relegate certain populations in our society to the status of invisible. This, too, may be indicative of the growing xenophobia in our country. A vocal, if not large at this point, group of citizens sympathetic to these views are listening more attentively to candidates and public figures who espouse these exclusive behaviors. The research indicates that those who suffer from xenophobia rarely recognize themselves as sufferers. They simply see themselves as correct in their views.
Although as a people we will likely choose to ignore these evident signs, the xenophobic underpinnings of contemporary politics are nonetheless apparent. These fears can be ameliorated in part with compassion, a focus on inclusion, support for those who value all aspects of American culture, and those responsible to the entire American population, rather than only to their closed, isolated group.
A welcoming, inclusive community for all is the antithesis to xenophobia. How do we view America today? Our leaders are saying it best. I suppose it just depends on to whom we listen.
 Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994) “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 67(4), Oct 1994, 741-763. doi: 10.1037/0022-35184.108.40.2061 Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/67/4/741/
 Duriez, B. & Van Hiel, A (2000) “March of modern fascism. A comparison of social dominance orientation and authoritariansim.” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 32, Issue 7, May 2002, pp 1199-2013. Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886901000861
Whether one is a Republican or a Democrat, poor or wealthy, of one race or another, gay or straight, or any other category one can imagine, President Obama’s State of the Union address held one message that was more important for us to hear than any other part:
“Each time I look at that flag, I’m reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs. And if we hold fast to that truth, in this moment of trial, there is no challenge too great; no mission too hard. As long as we are joined in common purpose, as long as we maintain our common resolve, our journey moves forward, and our future is hopeful, and the state of our Union will always be strong.” ~ President Barack Obama, January 24, 2012
At our best, we are a unified nation that allows for dissent, but always remembers that we all have one flag. We do not compartmentalize the red stripes from the white stripes, the stars from the blue field. It is one flag. We can find as many ideas of how to make things better as we have American citizens, but we have forgotten something along the way. Our leader must be at the front of that fight.
When I was a boy, my father and I would regularly be at loggerheads. I, in my ridiculous arrogance, thought my father didn’t know what he was talking about. I’d roll my eyes, and huff and puff whenever he said something that I imagined was said solely to embarrass me. The one thing I always remembered, though, is that he was my father, our family leader. I knew that he was always acting in the best interest of our family. As I grew into adulthood, I learned to respect my father’s brilliance as a businessman, dynamic love as a grandfather, and his rock solid wisdom as a father.
A president is not a father, he is a national leader. We have more room to question, argue, and rebut; however, we must also remember that until the time comes for us to change the individual inhabiting that office, he or she is still our president. Our president still makes the rally call around the flag, and we as Americans should heed that call with grace and strength, all eyes moving forward toward success and happiness.
If one is not a part of the resolution; if one is not a part of the constructive conversation; if one is solely beating his breast in lamentation of what is wrong and why it went wrong, then he should step aside and make room for those who want to assist in the process. Our stagnancy in Congress is an excellent example of what happens when we populate the houses of Congress with those who simply want to play the victims, and this means on both sides of the aisle.
Here is my message to Congress: Ladies and gentlemen of the 112th Congress of the United States of America,
Lay down your weapons and pick up your plowshares. You must stand next to one another and look forward rather than standing nose-to-nose, facing one another in unwavering arrogance. How can you possibly see where we need to go if all you keep in your sight line is your colleague as an enemy.
One final note to all public servants, Democrat, Republican, and otherwise – Even if you do not fully agree with the person who is currently president, or trust in his judgment, we the people of the United States of America chose him. If you do not trust the wisdom of the American people, please leave your post, because we are the ones to whom you ultimately answer, and we are the ones who invited you to serve in the first place.
My husband loves ridiculous reality shows. It’s his guilty pleasure. During one program, I found a correlation between the perceptions seen in the show and how some politicians may be viewed during this election. Could these perceptions foretell the outcome of the presidential race in 2012?
One of the programs my wonderful husband enjoys is ABC’s “Wife Swap.” The program is about spouses from two different families that live with the other family to see what life there is like on the other side of the fence. The producers routinely select two homes from extremely different backgrounds. In the episode we watched the other day, the two groups included a family headed by a loving, liberal, lesbian couple, and a family led by an biting, self-righteous, and evidently emotionally injured couple. It was a train wreck!
At one point during the week the heteroamorous wife lived with the lesbian woman and her two children, the angry woman began spouting off about how she thought being gay was a birth defect, that she didn’t like Mexicans, and that she would abort a Down’s syndrome baby, and many other unkind views. Now, admittedly, she is entitled to her beliefs and views; however, to spew this vitriol in the home of a lesbian woman who has Mexican friends, and another friend with a Down’s syndrome baby was a mistake.
The lesbian woman threw a party and invited the aforementioned friends to meet the extremist woman. During the course of the evening, our lesbian partner, in a startling feat of passive-aggressive behavior, began relating the angry woman’s viewpoints to her unsuspecting friends. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty.
As soon as the angry woman’s views were subjected to scrutiny by those with whom she didn’t agree, she felt attacked and betrayed. During the remainder of the show, though, she slowly recognized that her views put her in the category of “monster” (her word, not mine). She had an epiphany that caused her to shake and weep at the thought that she was so bad, her family wouldn’t want her back. Let’s just say, her family was very kind to her by keeping their thoughts to themselves. Well, actually, they shared their thoughts on camera, but not to her upon her return. All three of the angry family’s members said they were going to miss the temporary lesbian mom that had resided there for the week. They said they sort of wished she didn’t have to go because she was so kind.
Currently, the Republican party is in the process of whittling down their numbers. As of today, the day of the South Carolina primary, we see three front-runners, including Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich. They have eaten through several of their colleagues already, but more meals are ahead for the eventual nominee of this party. Once that feast is done, then it will be onto the Democrat-Republican battle. The commonality I suspect we will see between the show and the election is that when we have Obama vs. whomever, both sides will appear extreme to the other party.
Rick Santorum is likely the most extreme of the Republicans. He states that it will take a far-right wing Republican to win the race. A moderate will not get the votes. I have to wonder. As with all bell curves, the smallest numbers are on the outside of the arc. The statistical mode of the members of the Republican party are not likely to be found in the outside of that arc. When faced with public scrutiny over extreme views, the Republicans may find themselves having an epiphany similar to the angry mother’s on “Wife Swap.” Consider that Rick Santorum eventually won Ohio, Mitt Romney won New Hampshire, and Newt Gingrich has a good chance of winning South Carolina. That’s not good news for the Republican party. It indicates a division in viewpoints in three distinct areas of the country.
Regarding President Obama, it’s likely that the same division may occur. Many Democrats wonder what they should do as an alternative to the chicken who is willing to work so closely with the foxes on important issues. Many democrats may end up seeing Obama as too moderate, and not strongly convicted enough to democratic principles.
Both Democrat and Republican candidates will be under a level of scrutiny that we have not seen for many years in this election. A candidate like Ron Paul, if he were to run as an independent, is not likely to be elected because of his Black & White, Libertarian opinions. He is also not very presidential. He seems more like an cranky hardware store owner sitting on the porch pontificating about how the country is going down the tubes.
We will see a real horse race this year come November. The truth is that I have no idea whatsoever who will come out on top regarding the Republican nomination. I suspect it will be Mitt Romney. We must remember, though, the surprise during the last presidential primary when Barack Obama received the nomination over Hillary Clinton. We can’t assume anything at this point. What we can expect, however, is that both candidates will be dissected into tiny parts by the public and the media. Someone’s going home crying.
Polarity is unavoidable when two or more people or groups have divergent philosophies and desires for action. It’s the nature of the beast. Group A wants this. Group B wants that. Group C wants the other. The part that is sometimes missing is that all three groups necessarily must have something in common because they are discussing the same topic. Commonality is what is often missed in these discussions. This is exactly what is happening in the United States currently.
The Democrats and the Republicans have emerged as vehement rivals. The Republicans blatantly direct the public discourse toward fear mongering and accusations while the Democrats spend most their time whining and pursuing passive aggressive techniques to get their way. It has become a fifth-grade play yard with adults behaving like spoiled, entitled bullies or frightened wallflowers. The result is that neither house of Congress accomplishes very much. There is plenty of posturing, arguing, puffing up, criticizing, and belittling; however, this Congress has one of the smallest lists of accomplishments in American history.
The Democrats, the oldest party in the United States, having been formed from the Democratic-Republican party in 1830 to elect Andrew Jackson, has seen many changes to it since its inception, ending up as it is today as a progressive and liberal party. Their opposition for 20 years was the Whig party who sought to modernize and industrialize the U.S. This party supported a national bank and believed that wealth rather than military might, would win power in the world. The Republican Party burgeoned onto the American landscape in the 1850s as the Whigs began dwindling in power. It was born to halt the Kansas Nebraska Act which would have allowed slavery to move into the North. The Republicans gained a foothold in power until the 1930s when Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt became president. That power base lasted until the 1960s when Republicans reestablished support among Americans with the election of revered general Dwight D. Eisenhower. Since the 1950s only four presidents have been elected by the people who were Democrats, including Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.
With all the disagreements since the 1830s, and even during the Civil War, rarely have we seen such abominable inaction in our government because of politics. The one thing that can be said about previous eras in our political timetable is that our legislators were, rightly or wrongly, called to action. Today, we see most of the 100 senators and 435 representatives in a stalemate on nearly every issue. The Republicans significantly rule the House and Democrats have a slight majority in the Senate. We have found ourselves in a cesspool of stagnancy that is injuring Americans at every level.
When will our politicos awaken from their angry stupors to recognize what they have injuriously done and tragically neglected to do? What are the magic words that will enlighten our legislators adequately so that we can once again have a strong and healthy economy, a strong and healthy population, and a strong and healthy operation of government? How long will we allow the politicians to blithely sing their own praises, believing everything they say, even though neither group has effectively improved our governmental situation in any substantial way?
As we approach our election in 2012, we must look long and hard at who is running for the highest offices in the land. Are they individuals of integrity, intelligence, and creativity, or are they simply arrogant blowhards who have chosen a national stage on which to lavish themselves in self-aggrandizement? What are we as Americans willing to tolerate this time around?
There is nothing wrong with a two- or more-party system of government. Opposing ideas are healthy in that we have an opportunity to hear the voices of everyone in our country. When we recognize stagnancy, however, we must encourage new blood to join the ranks. It could be a new party, or a new, wise voice who speaks as strongly as FDR, as plainly as Truman, as inspirationally as Kennedy, as eloquently as Reagan, as intelligently as Clinton, and as hopefully as Obama. Somehow, we must inspire those who have a selfless interest in the well being of the American people first and foremost as their purpose. We must find people to populate the houses of Congress who understand that in every issue, there is a mandatory expectation of bilateral resolution. Sometimes one group will have more of what it wants and sometimes the other group will have the lion’s share of the compromise, for certainly, that is a word that has become increasingly dim in American language… compromise. Let us insist on balance and compromise before we have nothing left to discuss.
I was discussing politics with a friend of mine, and he wondered aloud if Barack Obama was going to be a one-term president. Clearly, President Obama wants to be a two-term president, and his policies have been those of a man on a re-electable mission. His musing got me thinking about something: What if elected officials behaved as if there was no “next election.”
Harry Truman operated in that way during the 1940s and -50s. He didn’t want to be vice-president, let alone president of the United States. His wife, Bess, was especially displeased about this particular turn of events, which is why she lived in Missouri during most of his presidency. He ran for re-election primarily because he didn’t want to be perceived as having ascended to the presidency by accident. He wanted to know that he had the support of the American people. As we know from the iconic photo, it was a close race, but in the final analysis, Truman won. Truman, though, behaved as though his one term was all there was. He spoke plainly, made unpopular decisions among the politicos surrounding him, and insisted on being taken seriously as president for the time he was to be in office.
Since then, we have seen some presidents more interested in re-election than in active, conscientious service as president. The few in history that have not done so are a rare breed, most identifiably in recent memory, Jimmy Carter. His election was a surprise to everyone, probably including himself, and he operated as one who recognized the transience of his office. Rightly or wrongly, President Carter, made decisions irrespective of the upcoming elections. Of course, the consequences of these choices resulted in his loss to Ronald Reagan in his re-election bid in 1980.
What would that look like today? Perhaps AmericansElect has the right idea. Selecting a candidate who already has the views of the American people in place, rather than a candidate trying to convince the public that his or her views are also the views of the masses; rhetoric supplanted by tangible evidence. AmericansElect opens the door to all public figures who have demonstrated their views by acting on them in a public forum, whether in politics or business. The candidate who most closely reflects the priorities and beliefs of those who join AmericansElect will receive the nod, whether they have been in the race or not. It will be nomination by invitation, an organically nominative event.
This process is a fascinating social experiment the likes of which we have not seen since the inception of our country. I am anxious to see who is nominated by this process. There is no guarantee that even if the individual selected is elected, he will receive support from AmericansElect in the following election since AmericansElect is not a party, so he or she will quite possibly be serving with the one-term mentality. Will we have another Truman or Carter, or will we see the individual become sucked into the morass of political wrangling and strategizing that so often encumbers our elected officials?
The nomination of someone, as yet unknown, by AmericansElect will establish the first public, non-partisan mandate of a candidate in this part of the election process. I look forward to seeing what that means in the election of 2012.
Beginning in the 12th Century, the Roman Catholic Church sought to purge the world of those who were heretics to the Word of God and the law of the church. Heretics were punished, sometimes by death depending on the era, and most often at the hands of secular and governmental bodies. In the 15th Century, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella established the Spanish Inquisition, separate from the Roman church, but with the same intention and outcomes.
The purpose and reasoning for these trials were specified in the 1578 handbook, Directorium Inquisitorum, “…quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alif terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur.” Translation from the Latin: “…for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit.” 
As I read the commentary by candidates and public officials such as Sally Kern (R-OK) who have stated that HIV/AIDS and the bombardment of homosexuality upon our children is a greater threat than terrorism, and that our country being exposed to homosexuality destroys our virtue as a country, I cannot help but harken back 900 years to the era of those who would cleanse their world of those who had different views than those in power for the betterment of the community-at-large.
There are some differences, though. First of all, the extreme right-wing political groups are a tiny fraction of the overall electorate. They are loud, certainly, but they are not the majority by any measure; yet, when we look again at the structure of the Inquisition in the 1100s, we realize that the powerful minority was attempting to take action against those who spoke against their belief systems. How is it that we are allowing this process to begin again?
As we see “Don’t Say Gay” and “Defense of Marriage Act” bills flooding our country, we realize that a segment of our population seeks to quash the civil liberties of a portion of our population. Legislative action has been suggested and taken to stem the evolution of our social structure to ensure that the status quo remains in place. This all sounds dreadfully familiar to those who understand history. The manner in which these processes are developing may be different, but the results are the same: Stop anyone who speaks out against those who bellow the loudest and do not believe as the extremists believe. Is there a difference, though, in these processes?
Some right wing candidates have put forth a suggestion that there should be a congressional inquiry into the operation of pro-gay and pro-equality organizations. With their desire to get to the truth about who funds and supports these causes, conservatives suggest that these organizations identify all donors during this inquiry. Is this an inquiry or an inquisition? Either way, this reeks of McCarthyism and the Inquisition, using terroristic and threatening methods against people who are simply seeking equal status in the United States. Should anyone question my use of the word, “terrorism,” Dictionary.com defines this words as, “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce,especially for political purposes.” Our access to freedom is being threatened by congressional attack and verbal abuse in the media.
One must wonder, why is the right wing is becoming increasingly vehement about their patterns of attack upon pro-equality groups? I can only think that like a drowning person who is so afraid of dying he ultimately drowns the person assisting him, the extreme conservatives recognize that the country is changing all around them. They are so desperate to save what they know and trust, they are lashing out with every fiber of their being against a segment of their constituents to maintain their current status. If progressive groups succeed in moving the country into the 21st Century politically and socially, the conservatives will play a diminishing role in the government. They will be seen as archaic entities that are no longer necessary on the political landscape. Even in my own life, I recently heard that someone I care about very much, and who is very right wing in beliefs, say to a mutual friend of ours, after reading a particularly pointed blog I wrote, “I thought James was a nice person.” I believe I am a nice person, but a nice person who has a strong belief in equality for all Americans.
Perhaps we are not hearing hatred shouted from the mouths of angry divisive people; perhaps, rather, we are hearing the death throes of a dying breed, the extreme conservative. Ultimately, they may not be so interested in what is happening in the pro-equality movement as they are in how it is possible they are watching their demise as a power in the United States. In the same way as the Roman Catholic Church did as they heard an uprising of people who did not agree with them, they are simply screaming the question, “Why?!”
I read something today that impacted my focus on current politics. George Washington said in his “Farewell Address” in 1796, three years before he died, that his countrymen should “forswear party spirit and sectional differences and to avoid entanglement in the wars and domestic policies of other nations (Archives.gov, 2011).” If only our current politicos could hear President Washington utter those words again.
As I watched the Tea Party debate last night, I realized something very important: the men and women on that stage were genuinely interested in the success of the United States. That is not to say I agreed with them, but as an American citizen, it was my right and responsibility to hear them speak to us about their beliefs and plans for this country. Some on the stage were so far from my beliefs about our country, I had to recognize that their plans were not my plans, and I would necessarily not vote for them. Others had ideas that I believed may have merit. Would I have known that had I not listened to these American citizens of another party, or dismissed them out of hand because they were Republicans? Of course, not! Would I vote for any of the individuals on stage last night? No. Might I have considered it had they resonated as correct? Perhaps.
Washington asked in his speech that we listen to one another regardless of party affiliation. My understanding of his admonition is that we should never allow our party boundaries to become xenophobic in nature. Sadly, that is what is increasingly happening on both sides of the aisle. It appears to me, and I know to others as well that when a Democrat speaks, a Republican automatically says, “That has to be wrong.” The same can be said for the Democrats listening to a Republican.
After years of teaching in both public schools and privately, one thing is absolutely true: I can learn something from everyone with whom I come in contact. It may not be a lesson I want to learn, and it may be painful to hear it come from the individual offering this lesson, but ultimately, I grow from the experience. I learn both by example and by contrast what I want and what I don’t want. Can our legislators and candidates say the same thing? I must wonder.
George Washington, a fourth-generation British citizen of the colonies and first generation American, knew that zealous adherence to party dogma was not good for our nation. He recognized that when citizens band together with a variety of ideologies, everyone brings a piece of the puzzle together in one place. When leaders stop listening, this divisiveness can topple a national community.
We can disagree, sometimes vehemently, with our fellow Americans. We can expect nothing else. We must, however, always respect everyone with a voice enough to hear them out and contemplate in good faith the others’ opinions and beliefs. Stalwart devotion to dogma is not healthy for our country. Deigning gravitas to the opinions solely of those with whom one agrees is sheer idiocy and arrogance.
Compassionate communication between those who disagree is power. Sophisticated learning from those who hold opposing views is genius. Cooperative work with those who have differing priorities is strength. These are the qualities I hope to see in our government in short order, because what we’re doing now is simply not working toward anyone’s benefit. I believe in my heart of hearts that George Washington wold agree with me.
Archives.com (2011) “Founding Fathers – George Washington.” Charters of Freedom. Acquired on September 12, 2011 from http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.archives.gov%2Fexhibits%2Fcharters%2Fconstitution_founding_fathers_virginia.html%23Washington&h=JAQA5rLa2AQCSqJJwSGOTgVo1d-K2CpGStJNR1k4Mh8mrDg
According to Dictionary.com, a theocracy is defined as:
“A form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler,
the God’s or deity’s laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities.”
A republic, on the other hand, is identified in that same source as:
“A state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is
exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.”
What would one call a government that is elected by the people, but is governed by the tenets of religiosity? Might it be a theorepublic or a theodemocracy?
The orthodoxy of this particular form of government relegates the beliefs of nonbelievers or those who believe differently to second class citizenship under this rule, and would force everyone to live under the governmental belief system as the rulers and their religious advisors divine as appropriate. The United States thankfully does not fall under this category… yet.
There are those who would invite us to live according to Christian dogma and patterns because the believers are convinced that through governmental intervention, citizens will be saved from their sins and go to heaven. Because they are called to minister to those nonbelievers, their intention is to create a society that reflects these healing and saving traditions. It is clear that their intentions are good. The challenge is that these well-intended people are missing a basic American conviction that the laws of the land are meant to serve all people, of every race, creed, and tradition with respect and freedom, without regard at the legislative level to any religious beliefs.
In the Middle East, several forms of this religious-based legal system are in place. In Turkey, Mali, and Kazakhstan, Islamic religious leaders are welcomed to guide the legislators in the development of their sharia-based laws. In places like Afghanistan, Morocco, and Malaysia, sharia law takes a larger, but blended role. In Saudi Arabia and Iran, sharia law is the strict foundation of the governmental and legal systems.
Israel, although not a true theocracy, has many of the trappings of this type of government, including granting automatic citizenship only to Jewish individuals, and ensuring this system has many halakhic qualities.
Roman Catholics have Vatican City, a city-state ruled by the pope. Even in America, Catholic priests were threatening excommunication of legislators that voted against church teachings regarding abortion, marriage equality, and the death penalty. Geneva was a near-theocracy with Lutheranism leading its government. The exiled Tibetan government is overseen by the Dalai Lama. Even in United States history, the region from Colorado to the California Coast was identified as the State of Deseret by the Mormons until that area was incorporated into the United States by the Treaty of Hidalgo.
The concept of theorepublicanism or theodemocracy is not new. We can certainly see the revisitation of this concept today in our campaigns. A quality has developed to the language of those desirous of elected office to couch their beliefs in more acceptable terms; however, let there be no misunderstanding: In the same way as when “those people” were not welcome to move into the neighborhood, or when segregated areas were identified for individuals who did not meet certain standards of color, religion, or tradition, we are seeing an upsurge in exclusionary focus. This cannot be healthy or wise for the United States. We must look to people who are inclusive, both in language and action, to lead us forward. Intelligence, wisdom, and strength must be the only qualities that guide us.
When one hears individuals such as Barack Obama and Rudolph Giuliani, and others of their quality speaking to all the people in the country, regardless of identification, one has hope that we will see the light of day with our drive toward a theorepublic.
James Madison offered a speech in 1789 regarding the developing Bill of Rights, one of which was intended to secure the rights of all Americans in practicing their religion or not practicing any religion. In that speech, Madisons said:
“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”
Inasmuch as an individual has the freedom and right to espouse, speak about, and act on their beliefs in their own lives, we also have the responsibility, based on our Constitution, to ensure that no one group dictates the religious beliefs or practices of another American citizen. A theodemocracy is antithetical to the very structure of our government and anyone who suggests it should be otherwise should be seen as misunderstanding our way of American life. We must depend on those leaders who ask the question, “What did our founding fathers intend for our people,” rather than, “What does my religion require me to do?” For those who practice a strong orthodoxy, this is admittedly a terrific challenge; however, to hold an elected office, there can only be one answer that will truly benefit the American people. After all, they were elected to uphold our Constitution, not our holy books.