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keeping the pot stirred
unity? we don't need no steenkin' unity!
by tim lockwood
11.13.04
news

Like a lot of folks, I watched the end of the quasi-orgasmic spasms we call an election process. I heard John Kerry give his concession speech, followed shortly by George Bush's speech. Both Kerry and Bush were quite gentlemanly toward each other in their speeches, considering the rough treatment they had dealt to each other over the past year or so.

It totally sucked, and my cynical side knew it was coming.

After all, this is what happens after every election. Both candidates make these soft purring noises about their respective opponents once the voting stops. Had they spoken so kindly about the other guy before the election, you would swear it was a campaign speech for him.

This year, they both added a new element - a call for unity, and a search for "common ground". Common ground? How is there supposed to be common ground between a fellow who says abortion is a woman's fundamental right, and another fellow who says abortion is murder? What common ground can there possibly be between someone who believes we were deliberately misled into going to war in Iraq, and someone who believes that war in Iraq is completely the right thing to do for all the defenseless Iraqis and to defeat terrorism? Where is the common ground between someone who believes that denying two people of any gender the right to marry amounts to Jim Crow-style discrimination, and someone who believes that to have a same-sex marriage desecrates the very principles on which society is founded?

There's no such place as common ground, and they both know it.

The real message behind both speeches was not a message at all, it was a lullaby. "Go to sleep, America. You've done your job, now it's over. Hush little baby, don't you cry."

Oh, like hell.

This is no time for Americans to let their collective guard down. If anything, it is time to get even more active in the political process. This election was not won by a mandate margin by any stretch of the imagination (despite what at least one talking-head spin-doctor actually said with a straight face on Fox News Channel, 51% to 48% is hardly a mandate), so there's plenty of dissatisfaction to go around. This is the perfect time to turn up the heat, and don't let up.

Sure, our voices are best heard on election day, but that doesn't mean we have political laryngitis the rest of the time. We can always affect the way things are. We have the right - we have the power - for that matter, we have the duty - to communicate with everyone from our city council members right on up to the President. Just because someone lands a job for a guaranteed term of four years doesn't mean we can't scrutinize everything they do in the meantime, and express our approval or disapproval to them when appropriate.

We also have many ways of expressing our opinion in public. Many city councils offer a specific time for citizens to address their council members during an official meeting. We can write letters to the editors of our newspapers (remember them, the original freedom-of-the-press folks?), we can set up an Internet site, we can blog ... you get the idea.

It's not about finding people who agree with us. We need folks who disagree, so we can debate right out in the open. We are not required by law to agree, and it's probably better when we don't. Yes, everyone has decried the divisiveness of this election year, but I'll bet you it's a lot milder than it ever was in, say, 1860. There is no need for us to get our panties in a bunch over it; instead, we should embrace it as our national heritage - indeed, our birthright.

It is a certain death to our nation if we opt only to discuss those things on which we agree, and remain silent on our differences. Silence grants consent, sometimes to really awful things; just ask any German old enough to have lived through World War II. But an argument forces politicians to find something to keep the noise level from both sides down to a dull roar.

It's not our jobs as ordinary citizens to find common ground. That's what we have elected officials for. If they want it so bad (and if we the people are doing our jobs, they will want it), let them find it amongst themselves. The rest of us have an obligation to continue debating and disagreeing with each other, and generally speaking our mind to the employees we just hired.


ABOUT TIM LOCKWOOD

My life is an open book. A comic book, about a superhero with the amazing ability to make his nose hair grow. Oh, and someone's torn out the order form for the $2.99 X-ray specs.

more about tim lockwood

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COMMENTS

daniel givin
11.13.04 @ 9:05a

Common Ground? We all die, feel pain, and want to feel needed and important. We all need food and water for survival.

robert melos
11.13.04 @ 4:28p

Tim, this is wonderful. I think we will see a lot more of this type of thinking after the last two elections. I would hope we see this type of thinking that is a wake up call to the American people to take action and be concerned with what our leaders are doing and saying all the time, instead of once every four years.

Bravo!

juli mccarthy
11.14.04 @ 10:19a

Good to see you back, Tim.

Fear and anger are great motivators to action.



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