Adam Gopnik, a writer for New Yorker Magazine, wrote an article that you all should read. It goes way back to 9/28/09 and is actually a review of the Dreyfus Affair. Its pertinence to today’s issues and problems is uncanny. The specifics of the Dreyfus Affair as applied to our general political mood today is telling. Besides, have I ever steered you wrong on suggested reading?
In a nutshell, the premise of the Dreyfus affair, as well as the platform of all of our “isms” today, is that ethno-religious hatred and prejudice overwhelms reason and justice. Not a surprise at all. Whenever there has been deep economic turmoil, so too has there been social/cultural upheaval. But friends, can’t we learn from our previous mistakes, separate government from cultural mores and personal religious convictions? To top it off, we now have an African-American President, whom many unhappy people are holding singularly responsible for our troubles. Imagine that: a face of color in our very highest chair of government. Could this be the perfect storm, the ultimate magnet, for attaching all that went before and all that is inundating us now to this dark-skinned man? Talk about displacement behavior being used to air our prejudices and injustice.
My favorite words of Gopnik’s article comes at the end:
The urge to protect the nation from its enemies by going around the corner to get them is natural, but what you get is usually not the enemies, and, going around the corner, you bump into something worse. Breaking the law to defend the nation ends up breaking the nation.
Read the article and make your own comparisons and conclusions. Our principles of government, politics, ethics, accepted behavior, justice, religion, socialization, financial gain and power have been so intertwined that the resulting mish-mash of legislative policies are neither here nor there, and certainly not effective in solving our problems. To break a law, whether formalized in our legal code or simply a principle that we all know is just plain wrong, with the intention of saving our own selves is equally horrendous as the initial crime. That is why, for example, cover-ups never work.
Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, the Tea Party, the NRA, the vacuum of financial regulations, a total lack of safety features and foresight built in to our corporate structure resulting in an eye solely to the bottom line, the dangerous amalgamation of religion and public education (not to mention overall public policy) —- all of these brazen chances just might, in the end, break our nation.
America is truly a melting pot not only of people and culture, but, as dictated by our Constitution, also an olio of many ideologies. This is all well and good for our freedoms. In terms of policies though, we must sift through all the different forces at work for all the various interests and try to institute clean, specific solutions to each situation in need of legislation. Certainly, defensive, preventive measures to any problem area should be considered based on previous events. Isn’t that what history is all about? To embrace answers in terms of disobeying laws and ignoring ethical concerns is not the solution for beneficial long-term results.
Our country is huge. With all due respect to our wonderful freedoms, we need to address each issue individually, without muddying up the playing field with band aids to make all ideologies happy.
Focus and consistency can work wonders is dealing with every problem as it arises. Democracy is a messy process and governing is partly a response to immediate issues. Life is messy too, and perhaps government is just reflecting the disorder that naturally exists all around us. Can America pull off this attention to emergencies as well as design and implement longer-term strategies? Or will America break under the stress of being pulled in a million different directions?
Certainly justice and honesty should have precedence over prejudice and personal cultural choices. The greater, more widespread principles of ruling and living can co-exist with each of our personal freedoms. Finding the proper mix is the experimental, tricky part.
The remaining question is this: can America retain its cohesiveness, by making relevant legislative reforms, and yet, at the same time, not take away its citizens’ personal identities? This was the crux of the Dreyfus Affair and this dilemma still faces us today. The United States needs to unite for the sake of effective government yet also respect all the diverse opinions inherent in our society. Can there be a happy medium? We need to find it.
Please read Gopnik’s article. The parallels between what happened over a hundred years ago and what is affecting all of us today will amaze you.