Unemployment is still double-digits in many areas. So we wonder about our economic security, without which we can do so little.
Two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, fought for no good reason, continue. So we wonder about our nation's future in foreign affairs and about those who volunteer for the armed forces.
The government will still not release relevant information pertaining to events such as the JFK Assassination. So we wonder about the honesty of those who lead us.
We are a nation without answers because we do not ask the right questions. Political discussion, to be of use to our society, would revolve around identifying problems like the ones above, asking questions so as to determine their cause and use hypothesis to test for solutions. Instead, our discussion has been about whose fault something is and how it will affect the two main political parties in the next election.
Instead we hear people's feelings about political parties and candidates and outrage over who has done or said what. Two recent news stories, of Dr. Laura using the "N-word" on the radio and the proposed building of a mosque and cultural center near the World Trade Center, have stirred far more emotion than sense in those talking about them. We should respond to fear by calling upon reason. I really believe that we can do better than this and here is what I propose:
For every opinion like "Obama is not a natural-born citizen," we can use the reason of a summary judgment argument to determine if it is worthwhile to continue. In other words, we could stipulate or say for the sake of argument that the statement is true. Then we ask if it matters. Even if Obama is not a natural-born citizen, there is nothing Congress or anyone else can do to remove him from office. So we should drop the subject or put it into the political file for his opponents in 2012.
For every opinion like "The 'terrorists' are going to get us" we can employ facts over fear. We should ask who "they" are. If one responds the "Muslims" or "Radical Islam," we could ask for facts, such as any facts pointing to radical Muslims in regards to 9/11. Keeping accusers honest is imperative to keeping down the threshold of prejudice and bigotry in our society.
For every opinion like "Public employees are fat cats," we can address ad hominem attacks. Such statements stereotype a group of people unfairly and are becoming common after the City of Bell fiasco in which members of the City Council and other city employees arranged for huge salaries and pensions. The fact is that not all public employees are so well off: the average retired public employee receives $20,000 per year as a pension.
Reason tells us that it is wrong to attack those who cannot fight back. Good discussion is fair and affords everyone a chance to respond. Even if one wants all illegal immigrants deported, the scapegoating of this group or anyone without a voice in power destroys this basic tenet.
We need a dialogue, not a monologue. We can ask questions and listen to others to answer. In fact, we must do this or risk further dividing this nation based on emotions, prejudices and biases.
Here are four questions that we as a nation should answer as part of a dialogue:
1. What is the proper role of our government and how can we apply this role to basic issues?
2. Do we support the equality of opportunity and if not, to whom do we deny it and why?
3. How do we decide when it is time to go to war?
4. What is a reasonable expectation of privacy in this day and age of the Internet and cell phones?
The public should know the basics of law. Simple knowledge of legal rules like the presumption of innocence, that a law is presumed constitutional upon its passage unless a proper court rules otherwise and that the Bill of Rights refers to the government's suppression of rights like free speech and not the private sector's actions.
We can find the answers to what troubles us and make our nation a better place to live. That's my opinion. What is yours?