Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the Revolution, never to violate in the least particular, the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others.

As the patriots of seventy-six did to the support of the Declaration of Independence, so to the support of the Constitution and Laws, let every American pledge his life, his property, and his sacred honor; let every man remember that to violate the law, is to trample on the blood of his father, and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty.

Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe, that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be written in Primers, spelling books, and in Almanacs; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation; and Let the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the grave and the gay, of all sexes and tongues, and colors and conditions, sacrifice unceasingly upon its altars.

While ever a state of feeling, such as this, shall universally, or even, very generally prevail throughout the nation, vain will be every effort, and fruitless every attempt, to subvert our national freedom.

- Abraham Lincoln, January 27, 1838
  Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My Declaration of Independence

We are not all cut from either 'right' or 'left' cloth

I now consider myself an Independent, after a lifetime of believing myself a Democrat (based on ideology, which I now realize doesn't jive with actuality.) I wasn't asked, the last time I registered to vote, which party affiliation I now hold... so I never had the opportunity to formally announce my declaration of independence.

One of the main things that drove me away from politics, was partisan lock-step. So often politicians and their supporters appear to be strong on emotion and short on logic. Thus the partisan extremism, mudslinging and personal attacks that have become so common during election years. I am so turned off from that kind of behavior, that I generally boycotted all politics until Katrina. Partisan politics is tearing this country apart, and both sides lose in the end because we all need each other if we are going to survive.

As a result of rediscovering myself as an Independent, I am noticing partisan talk much more than I ever have in the past. Every article I read is slanted one way or another - I didn't notice to what extent until I divorced myself from this broken Democratic party. From my experience, people just don't fit comfortably into categories. These two parties have become much too strong, and much too polarizing. And neither one has remained true to its base. There is a lot of talk, a lot of ideology tossed about, but behind the scenes both parties are sticking it to us in favor of money - money in their own pockets. Lincoln would call this 'capitalists acting harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.'

Both extremes - the far right and the far left - are so determined to have things their way, that they appear to run almost entirely on emotional intensity. 'Winning' becomes more important than finding common ground, negotiating, and finding solutions that benefit everyone. And this is just within our American society - never mind when we go out into the rest of the world and start trying to inflict our demands on everyone out there.

No one party's interests should trump the interests of the nation as a whole. Everyone from the individuals, to large businesses should be represented - and could be represented - if we were simply willing to compromise and be reasonable.

I have undoubtedly been something of an Independent in my thinking all along. I may lean more towards Democratic ideology, but the Democratic platform isn't what it used to be. I have no idea what they represent now... but I know what they once represented, or said they represented.

The Democratic platform used to profess to represent me, and those less fortunate than myself. I believe, for example, that unions exist for a very important reason: to serve as oversight on those businesses that care more about money than their workers. In a perfect world, we wouldn't need unions. But ask any coal miner and he will tell you in a heartbeat - this is no perfect world. Coal miners work hard, and they deserve to be able to feed their families and have good health care. God knows they need it. That said, unions can go overboard as well, and make unreasonable demands that would bankrupt many companies. When I think of union extremism, I think of professional sports. A livable wage - even a good wage - for an athlete is reasonable. Mega millions of dollars - just for hitting a ball with a bat - is frankly crazy (ARod... sorry buddy, you're wildly overpaid.) Balance. Reason. Both sides having a say, and compromises hashed out.

The Democratic platform promoted themselves as the party of corporate oversight, especially where food, drugs and the environment are concerned. Oversight is logical. We have to live on this planet. We have to drink the water, breathe the air and eat the food. It is totally illogical to sacrifice any of these life-giving necessities so that some corporations can become lazy, 'bad neighbors,' just to save money.

Balance... corporations aren't 'bad' unless they - like anyone or anything - become so powerful that they become a tyranny in our midst. With good oversight to counter their total focus on money, corporations play a huge role in our strength as a nation. But now they have run amok, and are even abandoning our country and moving their headquarters out of the U.S. so they can make even more money, basically enslave the populace in countries that have even less regulation than we do, avoid paying US taxes (what little they paid anyway...) its shameful. That should tell you all you need to know about corporate 'ethics.' It doesn't exist.

There must be oversight to protect the people (and that includes those who work in that corporation.) The corporations will never police themselves, not when their entire existence is based on making a profit at all costs. A corporation will generally only behave in a moral fashion if there is profit in being moral. That is just a fact of business.

I am a firm believer in oversight, because (having worked in business - I was an IS professional for 18 years,) I understand the beast pretty well. I saw and worked in some excellent working environments that were ruined when - in the interest of 'making more money' - an outside reformer would be brought in, rounds of layoffs would take place, and the resulting company would be so broken in spirit that in the end, the entire company went under. Everybody lost.

I learned from experience that people are the business - just as the middle class is the driving force behind our country's productivity.

I believe this 'attack on the middle class' that Lou Dobbs espouses started early in my IS career, with all of the 'reorganizations' that forced many of us to change jobs constantly, just ahead of the lay-off ax. I did enjoy a few great workplaces and I recall that I did my best work - my most productive work - in those nurturing environments. It seems completely illogical to me that someone would actually believe it possible to improve profits by destroying these great working environments. Every single time I went through it, the business suffered. Turns out, the productivity was the profit, and the workers were the productivity. Treat the workforce with respect and productivity will soar. People want to do a good job, but angry people lash out any way they can. I've seen this scenario over and over again.

People will give you 100% if they believe they are seen and appreciated. If they feel attacked, marginalized and used, they will rebel and productivity will plummet. Small businesses learn this quickly: if you want to provide good support to customers, ensure repeat business, and provide a consistent product -- you must keep your employees happy.

What I see in this new, 'Enron Republicanism' (not to be confused with old school Republicans and conservatives - there are many flavors;) is that same 'hack and burn to make more profit' philosophy. Anything for a buck, and not much thought going into the part played by the workers in assuring that profit. In other words -- profit over people.

Our middle class is very important to this nation - the middle class has been the pool, the fountain of our creativity, industriousness and new ideas for generations. You could say it was the middle class that made this country what it is today. The very wealthy may have funded it, but the middle class was the melting pot out of which came the ideas, scientific research, engineering, and entrepreneurial spirit that gave us the Internet, personal computers, the pharmaceuticals we use today, and modern medicine.

It is absolutely insane to wipe out our middle class - and especially crazy to deprive their children of the education that will ensure our future competitiveness as a nation. We can't possibly hope to keep our status as a world power without an educated and productive middle class. And yet it is true: the middle class is under attack from every direction now and education expenses are so high that soon we may lose this vast pool of intellect and creativity that has been a driving force in our national success for generations.

We need to find our balance again. We need a strong economy, a strong business world, a strong middle class. We also need to solve the problem of poverty in this country, as it diminishes all of us. That was very apparent in the aftermath of Katrina. We must salvage our reputation in this world - close down these illegal and immoral secret camps and ban torture again, restore habeas corpus and once again become a country that adheres to the rule of law.

I honestly believe that we have to move past partisan politics and find common ground. There must be a way for us all to work together and thrive together as a nation.

Compromise. Balance. An environment where both the corporate world and the average worker can thrive, where pollution is checked, where our food is protected, and health care is available to everyone who needs it. Our country will be stronger for it. Perhaps we need a bipartisan ticket after all... or maybe a third party. Its obvious something has to change.

I believe we also need to look deeply at the roots of crime in this country... why are our prisons so over-crowded? What can be done to address the underlying reasons for this problem? I watched a fascinating documentary on Nixon, and was stunned to see that he was doing just that... he actually sent someone into the prisons to find out why they were so crowded, found out it was due in great part to heroine addiction, and so he implemented a rehab program utilizing methadone. No one ever accused Richard Nixon of being stupid. Paranoid maybe, and vindictive... but not stupid. It is this sort of thinking - logic - that will help us overcome our problems. More logic, less knee-jerk emotion.

We all need each other. Its that simple. We can continue to tear each other (and thus our country) apart with partisan politics, or we can pull together and work out solutions that benefit everyone. I'd prefer the latter.

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