Embracing Our Struggle

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” —Rabbi Hillel {1st Century BCE}

The immortal phrase, "toss the bums out" is ringing in my ears right now. 

This was a phrase used a lot where I grew up around election time. I cannot imagine standing up to the House of Parliament and enduring the interruptions and brashness the Prime Minister of Ireland and England and Ministers especially in England have to. Who would be up for such abuse?

Naturally in election time, issues of key national importance are carefully discussed, then mostly ignored, debated again, and then ignored. That sounds cynical and yet both parties have spent beyond the country’s means. The real tantalizing stuff is scandal and rumor like where someone was born, their radical religious beliefs, the radicals they chummed around with and the billions they invested.   

I know some of you will want to give some of our politicians and leaders right now the reward you think they richly deserve… an honest opportunity to start a new career in something other than politics.  We never seem to satisfy our exhaustive appetite for elections; while wishing it were over at the same time.  All the ingredients for indigestion are in politics: anxiety of hoped for / dreaded outcome, fear of the unknown, undying support to an entity outside of our control.


Local issues are always important and often I wonder why we, the United STATES put so much emphasis on the federal vs. the local. But it IS fun!  Around this time our local politicians are very friendly in ways that would represent, perhaps, a quite dismal parental figure [ie. I’ll give you anything if you just like me].  Politics is a matter of rubbing elbows, attending pub meetings, showing up at funerals and weddings, and all the person-to-person style of life that makes it all so flaky but we are attracted to it and eat it up. So, bon appetite! I’ve heard it said that sometimes eating something on an upset stomach CAN give the acid something to chew on.

Yeah, politicians are important.  But, ultimately, the politicians' jobs are on the line so, they listen [to the polls]. They posture, make pronouncements, and dance around the issues in election time, so as not to offend pretty much anyone. And prior to telling the opposition that he/she is out to destroy the country, they wish each other well, shake hands and back slap as if they were once dormitory chums.

Despite problems, and occasional crookedness; this is a very healthy democracy where citizens can make their needs known and generally expect those needs to be met in a fair manner. It works. Yet, as citizens some often want the government to “help” in ways we would never help our own children [?].  And maybe someday soon, we will get candidates that treat the electorate like a strong father / mother figure; telling us the hard truths. And MAYBE someday we, the electorate, will stop treating the candidate like Santa [I’ll “believe” in you if you deliver on Xmas eve].

What would happen if candidates told us, for instance [as a recent AP Stanford University nationwide poll did] that the number one reason for failing schools is…  failing parents? I think I know. They’d get bounced out of office. It’s much easier to say that we need more funding, or better curriculum, or give each child a laptop.

And what would happen if a modern day candidate went JFK on us, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what can you do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."? At the apparent dusk of an age of entitlement and “what’s in it for me” are we ready to bear hard news? Or are we still swimming in the idealism of what Camelot could be on some parallel plane? It has been said that only those blessed with affluence have the luxury of idealism. At almost -$17 trillion, is an era of pragmatism dawning?


The debate the other night reminded me of how the wizened, grizzled old master sergeant develops an effective soldier – not by dressing them up in dainty uniforms to strut at the gate or to appear as handsome gentlemen to chat up the debutants.  A soldier’s true mettle can only be tried in stress, struggle, fatigue and combat.  Turning the lax spirit of youth into a true warrior’s requires the wisdom brought about by the real smell of gunpowder [when confronted by one’s failings] and by fighting in the midst of flying bullets [or media critique] and exploding bombs [of self-doubt]; not be coasting through imagined battles slathered with self-certainty, sycophants and like minds.

What a painful time this is for Democrats and Republicans all the same.  You can hear it in their comments. It is a time of stress and anxiety and hasty words.  When I saw the face of Chris Matthews, his sense of comfort and privilege dissipating from his face.  The makers of ibuprofen were probably the winners at MSNBC.

Obama supporters perhaps expected to be blessed with an opposition that would mail it in as attack ads had presumed. Perhaps this is the reason for the development the other night.   If I’m being truthful, I thought that Romney decimated much of his opponent’s platform and in truthfulness I believe he did it with graceful aggression.  (Of course we all believe our own truths). And whether it be one side or the other, our nation only gains strength through struggle and healthy debate. We need the two sides battling; as much as we would like the idea of, “why can’t we all get along?” Perhaps the battle we see on stage, we all have within and none of us are as monolithic as we deem?


The word republic has been also ringing in my ears quite a bit lately too. I think it’s largely because of the political season we’ve entered. It is also because my husband’s students were discussing the meaning of The Constitution couple of weeks ago for Constitution Week. 

When our founding fathers decided that the Articles of Confederation weren't working as a viable form of government, they met again to see what could be done about it. The U.S. had just finished victorious in the struggle against the British in the War for Independence. The U.S. decided that a strong central government, like a monarchy, was not necessarily a good thing [well, the majority believed this]. It’s why George Washington rejected the calls to make him king.

So the U.S. set to work on a better form of government.  Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, in a logical, heated, yet civilized way brought forth our present form of government — a constitutionally based republic. Did I say civilized? Even so, Alexander Hamilton with his ideas of strong central government, and nationalized banks WAS shot in a duel… but a gentleman’s duel nonetheless!

And for 225 years it HAS worked. The problem with a republic however, is that it takes work and participation on part of the populace, not just the governing. Founder Ben Franklin was asked when he exited the constitutional convention what they had given the country. “A republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it!”

His point is clear - citizens must participate in the process! We, unlike so many around the world, have a voice. But also a part. It cannot be the part of a petulant child; asking when they will get MORE candy… can it? Maybe children will someday soon, instead ask, “hey dad, can I go and wash the car for you?”

Anytime our country engages in national discourse and debate it’s a good thing. The debates means, “we’re not one-sided.” It means we’re not all “drinking the kool-aid” as it were. It allows us to challenge each other in a civilized manner. And, it has always been that when we have disagreements on how best to help our country; that one side calls the other a liar or unpatriotic. This is not new.


There is much to enjoy I’ll argue - each party wants to tap into the mystery of the democratic process; an elusive, invisible force with the possible power to make or break their campaign – every one seeks this magic.  George Bush Sr., called it, ‘The ‘Big Mo’.  Romney seems to see it right now, and Obama could very well seize it, in a week!  Very exciting!!

I don’t envy the President and Governor - there is little doubt that citizens face an uncertain political world and economic world. It is difficult to make predictions about the future and about the possible behavior of politicians around the world in future situations.  My hat’s off to both gentlemen.


This election cycle, our many white gloved soldiers will enter the fray; into the heat of the battle - and they are supposed to use every conventional and non-conventional weapon they have been given to spread the most freedoms to the most people.

A word of caution I give myself as I try not to take myself or any of this TOO seriously. Because, while it is true that many in post-war Germany claimed that they didn’t actually think the Nazi party was to be taken seriously, until it was too late -- it is also true that the modern day main stream media would have us think that with every election cycle;  we are on the brink of ushering in a new Schutzstaffel  (SS) and Gestapo. 

To struggle, with dignity is the human condition -- and that has remained a constant that is not exclusive to Green Party, Tea Party, Grand Old Party or Democratic Party.

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” 

Rabbi Hillel {1st Century BCE} 

“Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight I'll ever know.
Live or die on this day.
Live or die on this day.” The Grey

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