On January 6th in the year 2021, hoards of emotionally charged, intellectually stunted insurgents breached security and stormed into the United States Capitol building. Elected representatives were evacuated. The traitorous, treasonous, seditionist, insurrectionist authoritarian enablers among them tried to distance themselves from the violence they intentionally fomented. For such unrepresentative elected representatives, statesmanship is an arcane banished idea while its distant cousin, politics, is taken to illogical extremes.
Our country’s organizing principle is the spirit of the law. It is articulated in a carefully crafted Preamble that begins with the words “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union . . .”
From such a coherent value proposition, one that is often ignored by those occupying the commanding heights of government while masquerading as originalists and textualists, coherent strategies could and should evolve. But there are true enemies, advocating moral anarchy, exerting a corrosive influence on the democracy underpinnings of our constitutional republic, as well as others around the world.
Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, made it abundantly clear that “Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Indeed, to restore the rights of a people as they work, to become the arbiters of their own destiny, appeals to the Spirit within each of us. The only societal arrangement that will ultimately satisfy, perhaps even enthuse such a Spirit activated group is government of, by, and for the people.
John Wycliffe, in the preface to his 14th Century bible translation to Middle English, made it clear that the bible advances “government of, by, and for the people.” The offended priesthood of his day, dug up and burned his bones. It is not unlike the force behind today’s dark money, the gerrymandered maps, assault weapons on full display and all the other means of voter intimidation and suppression. These faux Christian conservatives push incessantly for things antithetical to the biblical principles they claim to represent.
By means of a variety of political sophistries, a few inheritors, skimmers, and hoarders of wealth have routinely thwarted the will of the many. Through a pseudo-religious hucksterism, some have even sacrificed a witness to the kingdom within, while engaged in a masquerade that stands in stark contrast to the cardinal precepts contained in the bible they like to thump.
Marketeers and politicians place great emphasis on what they term key differentiators, or what sets us apart. Today, the divide is dangerously wide. In our supercharged political environment, we tend to view the world through polarized lenses, seeking and seeing only what is pre-packaged to fit our circumscribed world view. It is a mediated world, replete with a tribal epistemology that reduces every value proposition to a binary choice where the question is: “Are they with us or against us?”
We must each ask ourselves: “To which ‘us’ are you referring?” At this juncture we should also pause to consider just how any understanding of the term “us” is ripe for a paradigm shift – a Pareto flip. In the United States, over the past decade, about 600 billionaires have controlled the information flow to 330 million people.
Conservative columnist George Will, in his book Statecraft as Soulcraft examined how the power of the state can create conditions that either foster the growth of blessed souls or the imprisonment of seriously stunted and tortured souls. He admits that his vision may appear to share some traits with totalitarianism. However, like Edmond Burke, Will places great emphasis on the voluntary associations and values that are seen as essential to a fully informed consent of the governed and a functioning free society.
In his own historically rich book; The Soul of America, biographer John Meacham wrote: “in the battle between the impulses of good and of evil in the American soul, what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” have prevailed just often enough to keep the national enterprise alive.”
Today, win-win is often not perceived to be of value to a taint by numbers politician or any other party trying to differentiate by leveraging fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear. It is a Joe McCarthy era tactic known by the acronym FIBS. When it is seen as politically expedient, they even divide us on consensus issues. And yet, once we blow through our own politically conditioned understanding, or expand our horizons beyond the Twitter-verse, we find we have far more in common than any self-serving political operative would have us believe.
Our focus must be more about finding our center, our soul, our statesmanship than it is about politics. Because, today’s politics is mostly about opposite poles on a line. We need to be mindful of the fact that: “No bird can soar except by outstretched wings.” And that, as experience has shown; the amount of lift produced at the wingtips is clearly not sufficient to overcome the gravity of our present situation.