Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Compassion?

Something has been bothering me for some time now. Well, actually, a lot of things bother me about the current administration, but the one thing that stands out is their steadfast mantra of being compassionate and conservative.

When the American Liberalism project was founded, our main goal was to try and achieve a greater understanding, a clearer understanding about the term liberal. On our masthead we even have a wonderful quote, from President John F. Kennedy, about being a liberal. I think it sums up liberalism very succinctly. Someone who is forward looking, who embraces change and who cares about the future and others. Little did I think that, down the road, I would be writing about compassionate conservatism.

But, today, it seems blatantly obvious that this administration pays lip service to those things. Before some of you feel the need to chastise me for this observation, please let me qualify. I understand that there are plenty of liberal conservatives and plenty of conservative liberals out there. Nothing is exactly black and white, despite Mr. Bush's statements to the contrary.

Over three hundred years ago, a small group of dissatisfied men and women sought a new life on the shores of North America. In Plymouth Colony they set their roots and built a community, a commonwealth, in which they could all prosper, the sharing of religious freedom was a priority for some, but not all. Some simply wanted to make a new life in a new land. Legend notwithstanding, all 104 passengers aboard the Mayflower had little in common save the belief that all would be better off anywhere other than England. The religious freedom seekers were the smallest part (41 persons) of the group. Even being the diverse group that they were, some conservative, some liberal, they knew that to succeed they must work together to create a new community. They celebrated their diversity and forged ahead.

Little more than 150 years later, when the break with our mother country, England, was being sought, our Founding Fathers were determined that what would result for our fledgling country would be a society just and equal to all. They were forward looking, ready to embrace change and sought to improve our future and that of generations to come. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to be anything that you could dream of being. And even while invoking God as being a divine inspiration to them, they sought to make sure there was no one religious belief that had to be adhered to by all. Liberalism at it's very best.

From 1820, and onwards into the 20th century, ships bore others who sought refuge and a new way of life. Compassion was America's middle name. The trend continued and even today we have those seeking asylum on our shores, whether for religious or political freedom, or simply because they still see America as the great shining land of opportunity. There are, however those amongst us, who would twist the intentions of those immigrants to try and make the rest of us fearful of their intent.

We have a President that came into office espousing a new era of compassionate conservatism. Maybe it is me, but I have yet to see anything compassionate or conservative come out of Washington for the last 5 years. I have seen major incompetence thrust to the forefront in our government agencies (Brown-FEMA), a studied denial of all things which would benefit the majority of this country's citizens (education, the environment, healthcare) and a hearty disregard, almost an intolerance, for most everyone who is not a Christian Fundamentalist. I have seen my country head backwards, a schism which has been created by my own government based on the color of ones' skin (New Orleans) one's manner of dress (towelheads!) or the religious beliefs one holds (Islam).

A major reversal of all those things our ancestors worked so hard to create and fought to preserve. This is not compassion, it is not even conservative. It is a narrow, bigoted view which has created a Civil War map of red states against blue states. Not compassion, but fear mongering.

Compassion is not Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib. Compassion is not the slashing of programs within the government that benefit all of us. Compassion is not taking from the middle class so that the few can have even more. Compassion is not turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to those world wide things which demand the attention of all nations who have the power to make a difference. Compassion is not treating others, who do not hold the same world view as you, as pariahs. Compassion is not cloaking what you say and do in the name of God, and then acting contra to everything which Jesus taught. Compassion is not governing by fear. Compassion is not doing all within your power to destroy your supposed enemies. Lying to get your way is not compassion, it is a bullying tactic, subtle though it may be.

We have some very serious issues facing this country. We have a national debt that has gone through the proverbial roof, (not conservative...and they call liberals spenders?) tax cuts which benefit less than 10% of the populace, an infrastructure which needs serious improvement, and an educational system that is being taken over by issues which do not even belong in public education, not to mention a war without end (very MUCH not a conservative move). Where is the compassion in all of that? Compassion means taking a look around, seeing what is beneficial to all, not the chosen few. Compassion is having concerns for those who have less and trying to improve their lot through education and training. But, sorry folks, those are programs that have been slashed in the conservative budget. Not surprisingly, it has been reported recently, that if the election were held today Bush would not be elected. Is this truly a surprise? What is a surprise is how long it has taken for so many of my fellow countrymen to finally take the blinders off and see that the Emperor has no clothes. It is past time for all of us to say that, no, Bush has not done, and is NOT doing a fine job, and is not compassionate nor conservative.

Today, like it or not, we live in a global community. Countries we have sought to work with and have forged alliances with in the past 50 years, showed us what compassion truly was in their universal response to our country's plight after September 11th. Now most of them would prefer to see someone, anyone else in power in the United States. Why? Because our administration's response to compassion was to spit in their collective eye.

Susan Goodwin

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