Sliding into Oblivion–or are we already there?

David Brooks makes an especially important point in his column today in the New York Times when he writes of two waves crashing down upon the U.S. in the next few years.

The
two are the increasing costs of programs that support the well-being of the
people (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) and the increasing polarization
in the political process. These two are leading to explosive points that will
result in fundamental change, according to
Brooks.

What is intriguing in this,
to me, is that Brooks believes the two major parties are about to lose their
reasons for being. Neither is able to break through the policies they have
created to find new solutions to intractable problems, and neither is able to
break through the hardened positions that have formed in a polarized national
debate.

Brooks says Americans will
become disenchanted with hyperpartisan rule and a new anti-politician will
emerge to “crash through current alignments and bust heads.” I say this can’t
come soon enough.

I’m already
disenchanted, especially in the wake of the Terri Schiavo spectacle, the
retrogressive debate about creationism versus evolution, the tempest over the
Ten Commandments in public spaces and other issues that have become the
symbolic, emotionalized and politicized emblems of social morality. The voices
of moderation, if they exist, are seldom heard. In fact, they are
disenfranchised.

Those at the
extremes are given media access to advocate absolute positions that leave no
room for compromise, or dialogue, for that
matter.

I’m thinking there’s a whole
lot more to all of these issues than the simplistic bumper sticker sound bites
that the strongest advocates express.

And there is more than enough
hypocrisy to go around. The politicians who are are most vocal to keep Ms.
Schiavo on the feeding tube are the same ones who are attempting to slash the
budget for Medicaid and Medicare, both of which must be sustained if we are to
provide long-term care for disabled
persons.

Those who proclaim they
believe in the sanctity of life are the same who voted to subpoena a woman who
has been in a persistent vegetative state for the past ten years to appear
before Congress to testify. This demonstrates respect for human dignity and the
sanctity of life?

Where is the
outrage that 20,000 people starve to death every day in the developing world and
we have the resources and capacity to put an end to this suffering, but we do
next to nothing?

So I’m ready for
new leadership. I’m yearning for an end to the demagoguery. I’m praying for
dialogue about compassion and humility, justice and healing, about individual
responsibility and social responsibility. I’m praying for an end to superficial
sound bites and hypocrisy and the beginning of honest, courageous leadership
that tackles real problems, truly stands for the poor and oppressed and cares
about the environment, peace and
justice.

So, Mr. Brooks, I think
we’re already living with leadership oblivious to the great challenges we face
and that means we’re already in a state of oblivion. I hope you’re correct that
new leadership is incubating, and I hope it doesn’t take much longer to hatch.

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