Those who know me know that I don’t like snow. I don’t even “dream of a white Christmas.” Ice is even worse. Yet I’ve got to admit that after last week’s ice storm, as the sun rose Thursday our back yard was a crystal cathedral. The sun’s rays dancing off the ice covered trees and shrubs was dazzling.
As we took our morning walk, the brilliance was everywhere. Sadly, we suffered in our own front yard, and witnessed in the yards of others, limbs broken free by the weight of the ice. In the midst of all that beauty there was brokenness!
That’s a small parable on life. The photos of the many broken limbs in Hutchinson certainly emphasized the contradiction. All that ice ultimately melts into moisture that quenches the thirst of the dry earth.
We experience another blessing within the brokenness. God does work in mysterious ways! In the midst of the mystery, however, I still pray for some soft “April showers” and the promised “May flowers.” Even with the dazzle, I’m ready for Spring. I think most of us are.
After that short homily on God’s mysteries in nature, I have a few thoughts on the mysteries of our political life. On April 10, the Sentinel published a question from Kent Bush, publisher of the Augusta, Kansas: Gazette: “Two Party system on it’s way out?”
It seems a valid question; and for me an important question. Bush offered some telling examples of how both major political parties are fragmenting into smaller, more rabid and fanatical, groups of “like-minded citizens.” He described the inner struggle of the Republican Party to decide just who was a true conservative, and who was a RINO (Republican in name only). Support for the neocon rigid and rancorous federal budget proposals that cut deeply into social programs for the aged, poor and ill, are becoming a litmus test of party loyalty. The callous opposition to sane and needed “gun control,” the blind support for outlawing all abortions and the advocacy of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) that denies homosexuals equal freedom to marry, are increasing measures of party dependability. The sharp cry “either with us totally, or against us completely” is defiantly shouted.
The Democrats, even though more liberal and accepting of varying points of view, also seem willing to splinter if strict adherence to their cherished social programs is even questioned. It seems both parties are drawing a “line in the sand” and demanding anyone aligned with them must rigidly “toe that mark.” For both political parties, the long- standing symbols of the pachyderm and the donkey are being replaced by the “clinched fist.”
Page 2 of 3 - For eight decades, I’ve lived with basically a two-party political system. For most of those years each party had a particular political point of view, but both maintained a root commitment to serve the “common good.” Then politicians had opponents, but never enemies. Once the elections were decided, it was the “common good” that all worked toward. I was there; I witnessed such unanimity of purpose.
The state was governed through debate, discussion, compromise and resolution. Personal pride and prejudice were submersed beneath how best to serve the most. With two major political groups each expressing mutual respect and honor toward the other, a true “give and take” of ideas benefited all.
Then there was 2010! The Tea Party people came to town with their own self-centered agenda, with seeming unlimited financial resources, and with a nation and world in strife and stress. The sitting President had been bequeathed a world at war and a nation in recession. The Tea Party had the perfect scenario to promote its campaign of distrust and fear of the federal government and thereby gain power. And it did!! They conquered the U.S. House of Representatives, and from their beginning became the “party of No.”
Along with other intimidated regular Republicans, these neocons thwarted every effort of the President to right the wrongs of the misguided and plutocratic previous president. Their only agenda was to ensure that President Obama didn’t get re-elected in ’12; they did everything they could to discredit Obama. Of course we know the rest of the story; their self-serving plan failed. Barack Obama was overwhelmingly re-elected.
Now these neocons sadly continue trying to sabotage the President’s efforts to more fully control gun violence in America, provide a humane and moral way for illegal immigrants to be part of America, to ensure all citizens have equal rights to love and marry whom they wish, to reduce the horrific deficit he inherited without making the aged, the ill, and the needy bear the burden, to further the peace of the Middle East with active diplomacy, and on and on. Whatever the President is for, they are against; to every overture toward them by Obama, he is greeted with a clinched fist. This small group is leading the fracturing of American political practice. They are the first to rupture our governance by democracy, and seek to establish a ruling plutocracy.
All this is combined with a fanatic religious fervor that rivals any religious fundamentalist or extremist.
The neocons believe themselves “absolutely right,” therefore “absolutely superior”, and consequently, “absolutely necessary.” They can use “whatever means possible” to gain their ends, because in their self certainty and their assumed superiority they are entrusted with a necessity to impose themselves on everyone else. They’re the beginning of the end of the “two-party system.” For them mutual consultation is surrender; compromise is defeat; the common good is an abdication of their private agenda. As other groups adopt similar approaches to government, each fragment promoting self-interest, democracy slowly will cease. That is a terribly sad and alarming possibility. Kent Bush of the Augusta Gazette rightly raised a needed question.
Page 3 of 3 - The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the McPherson Sentinel or GateHouse Media.
Fr. Bob Layne is a Episcopal priest living in McPherson.