Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Xenophobia and the Tea Party

Though I am not a tea party member, I have sympathies to many of their positions. People have a badly understood interpretation of who these people are & what they really stand for.
Recently a person I respect wrote a piece on Xenophobia? on his Blog Fare and Fowl.  In his piece, he had some interesting musings on some distressing trends in our society.  He stated, "A Large number of the Tea Partiers seen on TV are perceptibly eligible for Social Security and Medicare. My feeling is that they are motivated by the fear that some of their benefits and tax dollars may go to the less fortunate.”
I wrote this in response……

While there will always be kooks & crazies who do & say outrageous things that attract all sorts of outsized attention, this is not something that is unique to the tea party. (I have heard some pretty outrageous & crazy things spoken by more than a few Democrats.)
If we focus on the outliers & extrapolate these behaviors to the majority of members, we miss a terrific opportunity for dialogue & moving our society forward. I believe that what lies at the heart of the liberal view of America, is a commitment to fairness, justice & compassion to the less fortunate. These are noble endeavors & deserve respect regardless of where a person stands on the political spectrum. Conservatives focus on preserving freedom, defending our country, being responsible & respecting traditions & values.

These values, all of them, are very American. Aspiring to these ideals is what makes our country admired. When we place too much emphasis on a subset of values, we end up in a shouting match in which nothing of value gets accomplished.

Here is my view on the tea party:

As Peter Berkowitz recently noted, “Born in response to President Obama's self-declared desire to fundamentally change America, the tea party movement has made its central goals abundantly clear. Activists & the sizeable swath of voters who sympathize with them want to reduce the massively ballooning national debt, cut runaway federal spending, keep taxes in check, reinvigorate the economy, & block the expansion of the state into citizens' lives.

In other words, the tea party movement is inspired above all by a commitment to limited government. & that does distinguish it from the competition.

… the devotion to limited government lies at the heart of the American experiment in liberal democracy. The Federalists who won ratification of the Constitution—most notably Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay—shared with their Anti-Federalist opponents the view that centralized power presented a formidable & abiding threat to the individual liberty that it was government's primary task to secure. They differed over how to deal with the threat.”

If you listen to what is being discussed it does not have anything to do with being xenophobic or ignoring the needs of a race or disrespecting an ethnic group.

Many people who profess liberal causes, often move the argument to characterize the conservative (or tea party member) as being one of four things; A Bigot, A Racist, A Fool or Heartless or some combination.

By changing the conversation to these petty characterizations, they deflect attention away from these more fundamental questions that might actually mean something & make a difference.

When everything is said & done, it is the nature of the true conservative to ask this question”

“At what cost?”

Here, we do not mean simply how government will pay for something. No, the question is more profound. What are the total costs to implement the proposed solution, both monetary & social.

Often conservatives get these labels because they do not agree that a government program or response is needed to a problem. The question that many thoughtful conservatives reflect upon is; what is the most efficient, cost effective way to address our common concerns?

We operate with a faith that when each of us has maximum freedom to exercise our talents while respecting the rights of our fellow men & women, we have a kind of crucible in which the best ideas & methods ultimately triumph & society as a whole is best served.

This does not mean that there is no pain or suffering along the way. (When the calculator triumphed over the slide rule, it was damn painful to the people of the Pickett slide rule company.) So, in a society where people are free to choose, those who make bad decisions suffer. However, society as a whole wins.

Again, as Mr. Berkowitz states, “To be sure, the tea party sports its share of clowns, kooks & creeps. & some of its favored candidates & loudest voices have made embarrassing statements & embraced reckless policies.”

To be clear, I am committed to LIMITED government not NO government. Most rational tea party members do not seek to repeal social security or Medicare. We do however, first seek market place solutions for the challenges we have.

Leadership & responsibility often mean that we slow down & consider how to best address a common issue. Simply because someone does not propose a government solution or regulation, does not mean that they agree that the problem is illegitimate. This inaction should not be interpreted as “not caring”. It simply means that the person feels that government may not be the best vehicle to solve the problem.

We have major challenges. Our economy is whacked. Our state & federal governments are spending in a manner that accelerates our government debt. Our debt currently stands at an unprecedented level & without a significant change in our economy or government spending; we will soon be at a point where all of our tax revenue goes to servicing debt. At that point, there will be no money for any programs for the needy, no money for health care, no money for seniors, no money for education, no money for defense. Only servicing the debt. As cruel as ignoring the needs of our less fortunate members of our society is, it would be more cruel to operate in such a manner that we saddle our children with a debt that stifles their will & saps our country of the energy we need to survive & thrive.

We must change direction. This is what I am committed to. I hope you will consider my invitation to join me in preserving freedom & operating with responsibility. Let’s end the acrimony & shrill name-calling. Let’s join in a meaningful dialogue where issues can be addressed in a vigorous but consequential debate.

Do not do this for you & me but as our way of paving the road for future generations.

Let Freedom Ring

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