Back in the good old days of 1858 when not yet President Abraham Lincoln was chosen as the Illinois Republican Candidate for U.S. Senate, he made a profound speech, which his peers considered radical at the time. Despite the many criticisms Lincoln received about his speech, specifically the “house divided” language, prior to delivering it, Lincoln stood his ground saying “the proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.” While his speech focused on the topic of abolishing slavery, Lincoln addressed two important points, which I find relevant to our current situation.
Point 1. “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do,and how to do it”.
Lincoln is basically saying that we need to understand our current situation and acknowledge its severity; until we do this, we cannot accurately determine how to handle it. Today, more than 150 years later, we are in the same place. Our country faces many issues both domestic and foreign. We have a Congress that is either blind to or refuses to acknowledge not only the key issues, but the cause behind the issues. Until they can come together and hash out what the real issues are (not all the peripheral “issues” blasted on news networks to distract us from the real problems) and their root causes, they cannot effectively address them.
Point 2. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Although Lincoln was referring to the division between free men and slaves, the point here is that a nation that is divided, no matter the reason, is weak. Think of it in terms of parenting, if parents are not on the same page or do not agree on a common strategy, the kids will find that division and exploit it. I know, I make all of our kids sound like manipulative conniving deviants, but it is human nature to be selfish and humans will use nearly any means to get what they want.
So let’s put this in terms of American Politics and foreign policy today. Right now, we as a nation (the people) are divided in many ways, below are some of the major divisions.
- Class – Rich (the 1%), Middle Class (paying for everything with taxes), and Poor (getting a free ride off of taxpayer paid social programs).
- Political Affiliation – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian/Tea Party
- Citizenship – US Citizens (born in the USA), legal immigrants (followed the system and pay taxes), illegal immigrants (more freeloaders)
As long as we the people remain divided, we will not succeed in either urging our elected officials to do what needs to be done, or replacing them with officials who will. I took part in a rather interesting Facebook discussion that started with a simple question, asking if we could all agree that Obama was basically unfit for the office. What it turned into was an excellent demonstration of a house divided. People could have simply responded with a yes or a no however, everyone who responded (myself included) felt the need to write lengthy reasons as to why they agreed or not. It eventually evolved into complete partisan banter aimed at picking apart comments, isolating individuals based on political affiliation, and even personally attacking them for their beliefs. In the end though, everyone agreed that we had significant issues in our country that had not been properly handled or addressed at all.
Now, forgive me if I sound all conspiry theorist in these next few paragraphs, but I have made the observation in my life that while most people want to do what is good and right, they want to do what is beneficial to them even more. Sometimes that desire to take care of #1 first trumps the desire to do what is good and right. Politicians are no exception. When we have members of congress who have been in their seat for longer than I have been alive, how straight shooting is their “do what is good and right” compass? When they have endured decades of pressure from lobbyists, contributors, super pacts, fellow party members, opposing party members, constituents, etc., all of which have some measure of power over that politicians ability to be reelected, they have to make some choices as to who they aim to please.
Going back to Lincoln’s second point about a house divided, politicians know that the people ultimately have the power because we are the ones who elect them. They also know that when a group comes together for the same goal or purpose, it is very difficult to prevent their success. And it is much easier to divide a large group than a small, closely knit group because there are more differences in the members of the larger group. If you watch the news, you will see that every news network essentially reports on the same issues with different spins. The various spins are designed to appeal to different types of people either based on their political affiliation, citizenship status, or class. Doing this keeps the people divided. As long as we are being pumped politically slanted information meant to invoke strong feelings of either opposition or agreement, we will focus on how the other guys are wrong and they are the problem with the country instead of acknowledging the facts surrounding the issues we face.
As Lincoln’s first point emphasizes, until we understand the issues and acknowledge their severity, we cannot set out to fix them. In my opinion, we cannot truly understand the issues until we take the politics out of the equation. Before we start getting into the why and who behind the issues, we must first lay out what the issues are. In my opinion, these are our current issues:
1. We have a growing national debt in the trillions of dollars
2. We have an unhealthy dependence on foreign nations for critical products (e.g. oil)
3. We have a serious problem with illegal immigration and its impact on our economy
4. We have an unemployment problem and a social program system that is perpetuating it
5. We have a social program system that is fostering a sense of entitlement over work ethic
6. We have an inadequate Social Security system that was not designed to support the number of current retirees and may well not be around when the current working generation retires
7. We have been in war/conflict for over a decade which has put a huge strain on our military
8. Our military is going through a significant draw down and restructuring which could leave us susceptible in the near/mid-term future
9. We have a Congress which is either incompetent or incapable of carrying out their responsibilities to the people
10. We have a President who circumvents the Constitution and intimidates/threatens Congress with his pen and phone to push his own agenda
I think most Americans would agree with the above issues. I think most Americans would agree that, regardless of who is to blame, the issues need to be fixed. How can I, one person, set out to fix these issues you may ask. There are a few things you can do to help put the ball in motion:
1. Write to your representatives, local, state, and federal. When you do this, try to refrain from partisan arguments and simply state the issues that you see and the fact that you want your representative to address them. Remember, we must first understand the issues.
2. Talk to your sphere of influence about what you think the issues are. Again, try to remove the political spin and tell them you simply want to identify issues and facts. This is the beginning of closing the divisions.
3. As you build a united group, continue to expand to other spheres and take the issues forward as a group to local and state officials through petitions.
4. Educate others – groups like Convention of the States have tons of information and events out there to educate folks on their rights and power over government. They can help bolster your groups initiatives by petitioning your state to pass a Convention of the State. You can even join as a volunteer to write to representatives, speak at events, host events, pass out information, etc.
5. Don’t give up. Politicians are counting on us to give up, feel defeated, and just settle for the status quo. Right now, they have us beat and they are keeping us that way by dividing us over peripheral issues.
My mom always told me that nothing worth having was easy. Fixing these issues and creating a change in our country will not be easy. Finding people willing to take the stand for what is right for America will not be easy. But it is not impossible. Keep moving forward and always remember, one voice can inspire change!