In my area we have Obama, McCain and even Ron Paul yard signs all on the same street. When I look at the list of wireless routers my laptop sees, names like "Rightwing238" or "Clinton4life" pop up, reminding me that bitter, partisan hyper-political web surfers literally surround me.
Our country has been so divided by politics, we are not even talking to the parents of our kids' schoolmates, for fear we get into some ideological rhubarb. This is America gone down the wrong path.
I remember America's diversity as a strength, not a weakness. We can all agree our country was founded on freedom and tolerance of speech, expression, religion.
What happened? First our political system was hijacked - it's no longer cynical to say DC is dominated by two-faced, duplicitous cheats. With the current electoral system, it's practically a requirement.
Then, the corporate world's influence crept in, buying policy by the fist-full. Eisenhower warned us of military industry clouding the judgment of a strong yet moral military. But money trumped that message.
Then, media made it's move. First, it consolidated everything behind a few big corporate boards. The TV networks merged with the internet providers and newspaper syndicates, absorbing major movie studios, the radio stations, magazine and book publishers, record labels and even toy merchandisers to create mega-monster-conglomerates that blur the lines between news, advertising, literature and art to do two things - get your money and get your kids hooked on media.
The next thing media did was get in bed with politicians, killing or burying stories, running fairy tales as news, or spotlighting their candidates while blackballing yours. For the first time, we have commercials during presidential debates - very telling.
Today, I can remember America but can't recognize America. We are supposed to be a nation of people from all walks and stripes, united behind a brilliant Constitution, a system of governance and laws based on representative democracy, exercising freedom to speak and follow our dreams. We have a problem today if we cannot engage each other in our schools or on our streets, fearful some political kook will harass us.
I believe Conservatives and Liberals alike can intelligently discuss issues like morality and responsibility for the economy we share and what's best for the world we leave our children. The 18-29 year olds are out in front of the debate now, talking about brotherhood and unity, tired of hearing our generation arguing and getting nowhere. These are the post-911 kids, the ones doing the actual fighting overseas.
I am not afraid to reach out to my fellow Americans. I welcome a new leader who will bring us together on issues like energy independence, combating corruption and restoring manufacturing to America. But we need to find the leader in ourselves, making a difference instead of complaining, acting constructively instead of blaming others.
First and foremost, we have a lot of page-turning to do in DC. We need to face the future without malice for the past, because it will slow us and drag us into murky places. I think it will be horrible if Democrats find themselves this fall defending Whitewater, Filegate, Travelgate and a slew of new scandals the slime-assassins have been accumulating.
I'm not saying Hillary is guilty of these things, I say let's turn the page, skip the argument entirely. Obama is a great orator who can stir things in Americans long forgotten, helping us see how we can all reset our internal moral compasses.
I've felt this first hand today in a "water cooler" conversation with a local Democratic committee volunteer who was badmouthing Obama in favor of Clinton. I realized that slagging Hillary right back would be easy, but that it would get neither of us anywhere because the woman wasn't using logic or wisdom (see The Political Brain by Drew Westin). If so, she would have been defining her opposition by specifics in Obama's platform, but she was quite unfamiliar with the issues, projecting pure emotion: the fear and pessimism of the unknown.
I told her that I wish her luck but that I was sufficiently familiar with Hillary and felt that it was time for something new. Suddenly a chorus of my co-workers broke the tension and spoke out for Obama and all of us changing this country together.
I only hope that all of us can see in ourselves how we hang on to grudges, how we refuse to revisit the part we've all played in getting America into this fix.