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Robert Howard

An Election for America's Soul

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November 2012: An Election for America’s Soul

As a member of the family of humankind, I have toiled this planet for 54 years. By our nations current judgement of what is success, I would not be considered one, but I do not equate my self-worth by what others think of me. Many may remember that some 150 years ago, a young lawyer from Illinois became President over a nation whom, if just entering the field of jurisprudence today, wouldn’t have the opportunity to become president he had almost 150 years ago.

Yet he guided America through some of the darkest moments of its history, and his reward was to be murdered, in some sense brother Abraham was, the last casualty of the Civil War.

In 2012, only the most callous individuals cannot admit that President Lincoln deserved the acclamation as the namesake of the Republican Party, the Party of Lincoln, as it were. But America’s youth may have a hard time understanding that in 2012, on the eve of what many consider to be the most important elections in our nation’s history, it is that same Republican Party that has led the fight to not champion the cause of liberty and justice for all, but for the exact opposite. In several key states, we are witnessing Republican politician’s openly and brazenly fighting to keep American’s from voting, not because they are foreigners or don’t have a green card but because they know they do not support a reversal of their own potential to succeed, of Social Darwinism, that is not very different from slavery. But there are many types of slavery, there is the slavery of ignorance, the slavery of fear and the slavery of the mind. One of the great lessons of history is that it is not what you say or your status in a social structure that determine your worth, but what you do, to have made a difference in making the world a better place for all of us to live in, to have made a difference that you lived . As one who lives in two worlds, the world of secularism and the world of religion, and if you are being honest with yourself, the same is true for you, a writer once said “who you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.” Continuing, on that note, America has been in a collective struggle for some time to regain its moral compass, something, when stated as a fact, is the ultimate in political incorrectness. To square itself with, Alexis de Tocqueville vision of a city shining on a hill, which even of itself is something of a contradiction, Tocqueville was comparing the great experiment, which is America, with the ancient Greeks, who as most historians will tell you were not shy about indulging in various passions, some of which could best be summed up as “the pleasures of the flesh.” But that is another subject. What resonates about Tocqueville vision even today, is the ideal that freedom and power if used for the betterment of those who are its beneficiaries, can be powerful forces, and, some would argue help reconcile that same gulf

between secularism and religion, between totalitarianism and democracy. Atheists and agnostics are not pariahs, at least in a world of freewill, and their critics would hopefully not accuse them of hating God, but I have seen that characterization used, and it has been used even recently. I believe couching words in such a negative characterization reveals quite a bit about the character of those which chose to use those terms, and that is not intended as a compliment to them.

If the truth were to be known, more often than not, discounting belief in a supreme being, is not in essence hatred towards “religion” and/or “religious persons,”but hating the mixing of politics and religion as part of an infrastructure of democratic government, something that, contrary to what many on the right attest, was a slippery slope the Founding Fathers did not sidestep, but faced head-on as it had so much to do with fleeing our English cousins and post-Catholic England, in search of something better, namely, freedom of religion. So certainly an issue amongst secularist’s are matters such as inconsistencies, hypocrisies and sheer contradiction between taking a belief, in this case Christian love and seeing it perverted. What some may ask, is any organized religion doing that is perverse? I can clearly and unequivocally cite one and that is the demonization of the religious fundamentalist’s view of “sinners.”

If you read, watch television or otherwise don't live on an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere, you no doubt can remember seeing or hearing about “Christian evangelicals” taking aim at the families of deceased gay and lesbian persons in their most emotionally and personally vulnerable moment commemorating the death of a loved one at their funeral, many times when that loved one died in the service of their country, as an opportunity to become, in effect, “funeral crashers” shouting and carrying on as only a cohesive unit of rabble rousers can, and carrying signs carrying such messages as “God hates queer’s,” or “AIDS is God’s answer to homosexuality.” If calling out something inherently and obviously sick makes one an atheist, which as mentioned earlier, is part of the current dyslexia in American culture today, then I suppose I do not see atheism as being the most formidable evil in 2012; there is something called freewill, which is not exactly a foreign phrase in the world of religion.

Freewill is not synonymous with “do anything you feel like even if it is illegal,” but is rather a god-given and constitutional right, depending on ones comfort zone between using the former or the latter, which are, those same worlds of religious and moral spheres. In fact, one of the themes becoming more and more prominent in various debates over identifying and battling social injustice is what the late Pope John Paul II, not exactly a stranger to most citizens of our time, wrote about in “The Social Concerns of the Church,” when he wrote about “structures of sin.”

http://www.nytimes.c...res-of-sin.html

While the New York Times asserted that, the then Pope, was, “at least a decade out of date on his geopolitics,” something the reader may have no strong feelings about either way, the article correctly mentioned John Paul II’s same geopolitics were rooted in the philosophy that both the East and the West, i.e. the United States and the Soviets, had a critical attitude toward both liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism.'' Why? ''Each of the two blocs harbors in its own way a tendency toward imperialism . . .''

The reason for going back to that episode in recent American memory is to make note of the fact

that while the Republican Party, is the party of choice when it comes to "the sanctity of human life,"

there is the disturbing fact that regarding the same issue, when it came to the invasion of Iraq, under President George W. Bush, the idea of the sanctity of human life, in this case American fighting men and women, was nowhere to be found. And only someone, literally wearing blinders will not admit that it is

certain, there never were "weapons of mass destruction," in Iraq at that time. Only the most naive American would argue that the Bush Administration, didn't know the intelligence reports were a blatant misrepresentation of fact, as the documents attesting to their presence in Iraq, are now known to be

factually dishonest, and indeed were penned as such.

And so behind the very vitriolic 2012 Presidential election, political as usual aside, there is a profound moral and economic question that will, for the well being of our country, and every possible positive move towards a future not in doubt, is the very relevant argument over America’s economic and moral future. The economic collapse we suffered that began under the Presidency of George W. Bush, was as much a failure of respected economists not understanding we were at the precipice of a cliff, until we fell off, as a failure of any effective safety net or leadership. Economic pragmatism, and hopefully an educated electorate will soon come toward an educated consensus towards permanently ending the monster of Social Darwinism, that is currently one of our countries current ailments. Like the Emperor’s New Clothes, it is alive and well for all to see. For just as there is the historical injunction that “those who fail to grasp that past, are doomed to repeat it,” is true, there is one core fact that cannot be dismissed, and that is history and therefore progress are by their very nature “cyclical in nature.” Which explains why historians in general are not exactly the most positive thinkers when it comes to envisioning the future. They understand and have understood, that truly positive significant change takes years and decades to come about, and even then is always accompanied by unforeseen problems and circumstances.

The terms conspiracy and hidden agenda seem to be used quite a bit these days by conservatives both in our culture and in politics to describe our current President, and if one has the capacity to reflect honestly, resembles a chicken little mentality, that the sky is falling, whether it is Obama’s birth certificate, death squads or his economic policies to “failure” in not wanting to continue the War in Afghanistan to when, 2075? Does any thinking person believe that if President Obama was not a real citizen of the United States,

that fact would not have been made unequivocal by his own opponent, Senator John McCain and the other

candidates for the Democratic nomination, before the 2012 election? Conspiracies do exist, but swallowing that one, defies logic and reality.

It seems as if he is, to some of us more of an usurper to the throne, than the winner of the 2008 Presidential election. Why is that? A reasonable thinking person might point out that the virtual face of terror, Osama bin Laden was killed on the President’s watch, and was not some accident, but was the result of a Presidency that is very active in the War On Terror, even to the detriment of his Administration, at least by part of the left wing of the Democratic Party. Yet he is not given credit for that, only taken to task as “capitalizing on it for political gain,” as if, that dynamic were the exclusive domain of the Democratic Party. Whatever ones view, it is my belief that President Obama if he could walk on water, would be criticized instead of given credit for succeeding where the Bush Administration failed.There is something all so terribly disengenious about the politics of fear the Republican Party seems so incredibly filled with in our time. Viewing with impartiality their accusations paint a very different picture. A President takes office with a mandate for change, not unlike Ronald Reagan in 1980, Obama’s political foes, have not kept a very good secret in admitting that from practically day one of his Presidency, they would not be cooperating in any way in working together with the Democrats in Congress to pass legislation. It has been as if, the once certain process of the two-party system, working together in a bi-partisan manner to get the nation out of the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, has been jettisoned in favor of a propaganda campaign to “regain the Presidency,”even if means destroying the economy and our countries future in the process. Indeed, the flirtations with government shutdowns because of arguments over the budget, seem more a reminder of the 1948 Postwar showdown in Italy between than what should be part of the political landscape of American politics, and the whole ludicrous spectacle must be removed, which is where the problem only begins. You may be asking what do you mean beginning of the problem, my answer is when was the last time Americans had a consensus over economic policy to begin with, or a consensus regarding practically anything? Whereas American’s response to 9-11, is an exception, It is not John or Jane Doe’s responsibility, for consensus, that is the responsibility of whomever leads our nation, whether they be Republican or Democrat and hopefully with the consent of an informed and intelligent electorate.

Republican, Mitt Romney wants Americans to see him as the ostensible political Moses, coming to lead us out of our economic desert, the problem is between his political record and the inability of his Party to decide to sell him as a liberal conservative or as the standard-bearer of the Tea Party, the resume not only doesent match the rhetoric, it does not even match the reality.

The Republican Party has, if anything since 2008, proven to be a master of the art of deceptive politics and alienating itself from working families of every ethnicity, unless you happen to be rich, powerful and a member of their core constituency. To say that may appear at first glance to be the rant of a devout Democrat, but it is not. Neither party is blameless when it comes to having a hand in the failures of recent memory, where Americans are justifiably angry is the triangulation of special interests, PACS and Congress; with the latter, at least giving all appearance to forgetting how they recieved the opportunity to serve in Washington to begin with. The real truth about the trumped up invasion of Iraq, in this writers mind, ie there never were weapons of mass destruction and that the Bush Administration knew it long before the invasion, and just to reflect for a moment, one incident from that period which is not exactly a Kodak moment for the former President and the Republican Party began after the second Gulf War began.

On June 4, 2004, in an Address to President Bush, Pope John Paul II reminded the then, President that:"You are very familiar with the unequivocal position of the Holy See in this regard, expressed in numerous documents, through direct and indirect contacts, and in the many diplomatic efforts which have been made since you visited me, first at Castelgandolfo on 23 July 2001, and again in this Apostolic Palace on 28 May 2002."

The image of Pope John Paul II admonishing George W. Bush that he would have to give an accounting to God, for the decision to invade Iraq. That for me, was the end of the temporary “world united” movement in Post 9-11 geopolitics, from then on it was all downhill, or, uphill if you are addressing the task which faced the Bush Administration from that point on, until he left office.

It is one of histories great ironies that the civil rights era, which could be marked by Rosa Parks refusal to go to the back of the bus in the mid 1950’s, that after a decade short of 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln, that the initial violence began, not by African-American’s trying to remove the yoke of separate and unequal, but angry Anglo-American racists who sensed the beginnings of the conscience of a nation trying to eradicate itself from a mortal sin that has been hanging over America since 1776. Think about that for a moment, let it, as they say, soak in. It is my viewpoint that instead of focusing on the continuation in North America, I am actually happy that African-American’s are part of our “American Experiment,” for they besides being a national treasure, but are, or should be a constant reminder of how “being a democracy,” was, for a great length of time, far from a literal truth. Freedom, as real patriots in American history have told us requires, constant vigilance. The graveyard of Empires are littered with societies that said “it can’t happen here."

It is not illogical to view the schism in Washington to a group of children at elementary school arguing over who won the coin-flip in a football game. Irrespective, of ones political leanings, there is not one problem in Washington that cannot be solved by eliminating corruption, and an end to the culture of secrecy which, albeit necessary in matters regarding national security, has in American political history been used to foster virtual untruths regarding the circumstances regarding controversial events in America’s history whether it is in reference to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, a proven contrivance to expand the war in Vietnam or even how some of our nations political leaders in the 1960’s were really assassinated.

The problem is, situations as the one described are not easily solved when you live in a Democracy, at least not in America’s current culture war, blame game, backdrop. The one failure of the American people is in mimicking the ugliness in Washington politics by the equally uncivilized politics of hate and violence. The last time I looked there is only one demographic that are “true Americans,” and if the truth be known they are about as popular a topic as the homeless, I will give you a hint, many of “them” live on something called a reservation, and they are American Indians.

And a note about the homeless, who didn’t even get a mention by either party in 2008. A fact that perhaps says something more about how far we have fallen as a nation, than anything. While it is not the governments role to administer a welfare state, it does bode well for America’s future when an icon of American politics, slashed government assistance programs in hospitals which housed the mentally-ill or more recently the scandal of our servicemen returning to rundown VA hospitals during the presidency of George W. Bush.

A nation’s character is truly revealed by what is does or doesen't do for its weakest and most disenfranchised, the Republican Party apparently views anyone having economic problems as a “deadbeat,” a slacker or someone who is a discredit to their country, coming from them I would consider the charge a compliment. The sickening part of the equation is amidst their cultivating hate, contempt for the poor and wrapping a warped version of Christianity in the American flag, they actually seem to think they are the real American’s, and that is a sickness that only a well-deserved drubbing on the first Tuesday this November will cure.

Edited by Robert Howard

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Very well written Robert thought I find it hard to be as enthusiastic about Obama this time around. He's better than Romney but that's not saying much.

"on the eve of what many consider to be the most important elections in our nation’s history,"

People always say stuff like that but is 2012 really more important than let's say 1800, 1860, 1864 or 1932? I don't even think think this is the most important recent election. That was 2000 though there was no way of predicting this at the time. I'd 2004 was more important If Kerry had prevailed we probably would have gotten out of Iraq much sooner and perhaps been able to stabilize Afghanistan and perhaps not had the giant meltdown of 2008.

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I appreciate your comments Len. Irregardless of where the 2012 election ranks in terms of importance, the economic and foreign policy implications of this race loom large. I can think of many facets of this race that call for a very calculated analysis of the potential of each candidate. But in light of the so-called Frankenstorm, hurricane Sandy, the issue of global warming stands as another. The Republican Party seems content to label the issue as a fantasy, but when the stakes are so high, maybe fiddling while Rome burns isn't the best way to look deeper into a very important issue.

The endorsement of the Winston-Salem Journal for President Obama is below.

I wanted to post it instead of reading my own thoughts about the election.

Obama is best choice for president

By: Journal Editorial Board | Winston-Salem Journal

Published: October 14, 2012 Updated: October 14, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Americans have a clear choice between two presidential candidates with starkly different ideas for spurring the economy, providing for the health of our people, defending our interests abroad, educating our children and protecting our environment. We believe that President Barack Obama’s progress on these issues merits him a second term in the White House.

Four years ago on this page, we endorsed Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona over Obama. We wrote that we were impressed with Obama, but McCain would “bring the Iraq war to a successful conclusion, work to end American dependence on foreign oil, reduce America's output of climate-changing gases and begin the rebuilding of our economy.”

The Democratic president has done all those things and more. He is calm under pressure and courageous in standing up for the rights of all Americans, including the poor, veterans, the elderly, women, gays and immigrants. In contrast, we’ve sometimes found it hard in the last few weeks to tell just what Obama’s challenger, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, really stands for.

Obama is not always as gregarious as many Americans might like him to be, but he is committed to his country and candid with it — to the point of releasing far more of his tax returns than Romney. While Obama commits the occasional gaffe, we can’t imagine him ever dismissing 47 percent of his fellow Americans — as Romney did, and later apologized for doing.

After weeks of challenges, Romney’s campaign was on an upswing last week after a decisive victory in the first debate. But Obama has had a generally strong four years. He and Vice President Joe Biden form a seasoned, consistent ticket, one much more promising and reliable than that of Romney and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Under Obama’s policies, including the successful bailout of General Motors, the country averted what could have been a far worse economic disaster, maybe even a depression. The economy is slowly recovering — the national unemployment rate has finally fallen below 8 percent — and the president’s policies of continued government investment in infrastructure and education offer the best hope that the recovery will accelerate. Obama promises to cut spending and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but keep taxes where they are for the vast majority.

Romney’s policies — warmed-over trickle-down economics — will make matters worse. We say that with a caveat, however, because Romney’s plans are ever-changing and it is hard to know just where his policies would end and those of the much more conservative Ryan would begin.

On national security, Obama has gotten American combat troops out of Iraq while winding down the American presence in Afghanistan. He has used American military might to fight international terrorism to a degree that no one anticipated in 2008. He showed strong leadership in ordering the successful raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The Obama foreign policy — as seen in Libya — requires our allies to handle a great share of our common defense burden, especially when the interests at stake are dearer to those allies.

We like the president’s stand on Iran, slowly but steadily undermining the Iranian economy rather than launching a premature military strike and setting off another Middle East war.

In contrast, Romney and his supporters have rattled the saber at Iran. Despite Romney’s efforts in the last few days to tone it down as he tacks to the middle, his foreign policy seems to come straight from George W. Bush. Some of Romney’s foreign-policy advisers are the former Bush neo-conservatives who got us into the unnecessary Iraq war.

We like Obama’s health-care plan, finding it far better than that offered by Romney, even if it is largely based on Romney’s own Massachusetts program. We see no sign that Romney, should he succeed in repealing “Obamacare,” would succeed in balancing the many competing health-care interests that Obama worked into a compromise.

We fear that Romney would turn Medicare into a voucher program that would not match the full cost of private insurance for the seniors. His hybrid plan would drive the sickest Americans into a government plan and let the insurance companies cherry-pick the healthiest clients.

On education, Romney, just as Republican leaders here, seems to believe that if we continue to cut public education, we will somehow educate our young well enough.

And on the environment, we’re concerned that Romney would gut protections Obama has restored.

Obama has a keen vision that he has worked hard to achieve, against considerable obstacles and often courageously. But the goal is in sight: An America respected worldwide as much for its prosperity as its defense of liberty and justice.

The Journal editorial board endorses Barack Obama for president.

Edited by Robert Howard

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From a British perspective Obama has been disappointing. However, Romney’s foreign policy statements have been worrying. I read recently that Obama cannot make too many promises because he is unlikely to be in control of Congress after the election.

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From a British perspective Obama has been disappointing. However, Romney’s foreign policy statements have been worrying. I read recently that Obama cannot make too many promises because he is unlikely to be in control of Congress after the election.

Although the exact numbers may shift the situation should remain the essentially the same with a Dem. majority in the Senate and a GOP one in the House.

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I appreciate your comments Len. Irregardless of where the 2012 election ranks in terms of importance, the economic and foreign policy implications of this race loom large. I can think of many facets of this race that call for a very calculated analysis of the potential of each candidate. But in light of the so-called Frankenstorm, hurricane Sandy, the issue of global warming stands as another. The Republican Party seems content to label the issue as a fantasy, but when the stakes are so high, maybe fiddling while Rome burns isn't the best way to look deeper into a very important issue.

The endorsement of the Winston-Salem Journal for President Obama is below.

I wanted to post it instead of reading my own thoughts about the election.

A very eloquent endorsement, how did you happen upon it? This WSJ is not exactly a major newspaper. Weightier endorsements came from Colin Powell and Mayor Bloomberg. And surprisingly the GOP governor of NJ, a Romney supporter, keeps praising Obama's response to Sandy, can't help but think that will sway some undecided voters.

EDIT - Typo

Edited by Len Colby

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I received the link courtesy of the Obama 2012 Re-Election campaign. I could think of a dozen additional things to say, but I am trying to be nice, and none of the things I can think of regarding the, thankfully now over election are very nice.

One example I will cite is the Romney campaign's use of the phrase "trickle-down government."

I wonder if it hacked off David Stockman, Director of OMB under President Reagan, as much as it did me.

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