I am at a loss to how we have come to where we are, and find myself wondering every day what it means to be an American. In the end, has the meaning slipped beyond our grasp?
It’s not just the mainstream political candidates that we have been told are our only choices; it is the vehement, hateful rhetoric that so many people I call family, friends and neighbors have chosen to employ to prop up deeply failed candidates.
Perhaps the most disheartening trend I have witnessed of late is the siren call by mindless followers that a vote for anything other than the Democrat or Republican is a vote wasted. It is contrary to everything I was taught at my father’s knee about what it means to be an American.
What have we become?
I was taught by my parents that it did not matter your color, creed or religion; we as a people are citizens of the United States of America. Whether you were Christian or Muslim, Jewish, Atheist or Agnostic; whether you were Heterosexual, Homosexual, or anything in-between, it didn’t matter. Together, we were Americans.
That America seems to have slipped away.
Now, we vote only for our own self-interest. What will the candidate do for me, my family, my beliefs, my community, regardless of anyone else? That is not who we were as a nation. It’s not what we must be if we are to continue to be a nation of one people. Our vote should and must be what is best for the nation as a whole, not just what one candidate or the other might say to stave our fears.
Ronald Reagan was the first president I have any true recollection of following as I transitioned from youth to adulthood. I admired him greatly. I served my country under President Bush and President Clinton, even though I did not necessarily vote for either of them. But in every president from President Reagan to President Obama, I have found in each and every one of them something that I deeply admire. I did not agree with any of them on every decision they made, but I did not sit where they sat, did not face what they face, and did not know what they know. Once the vote was cast and the decision was made, they were my president.
It would be easy to blame the political parties for the turmoil we find ourselves in. But we need to accept responsibility as the people of the United States, that we, collectively, have made our choices in the past to lead us where we are.
The political system as it is now formed makes it impossible for a man or woman of integrity and character to reach office with that integrity and character in place. Not just at the presidential level, but from the local office all the way to the highest position in the land, if you seek to serve, you must adopt platforms you may find repugnant.
We have allowed it to happen, encouraged it even.
I believe more and more every day that if the America I was taught to love and serve is to survive, the political parties we follow must fade into history. They are both corrupt.
The only chance we have is to vote our conscience. Vote for who you believe will best serve us, regardless of whether they are running for office or not. Draft them, if you must. Vote and let your voice be heard, that we will not accept anything less than the best we are, as a people, to represent us, not just the choices that have been offered.
If enough of us vote for integrity and character, wherever we might find it, we might finally make our voices heard that this is our country, collectively, as one people . . . united.
Perhaps then, we can find a way back from the abyss.