Monday, August 1, 2011

US Government: Of the people? By the people? For the people?

Yesterday, the US government avoided defaulting on its debt and agreed to raise the debt ceiling. Most folks are calling this a victory for the Republicans and/or Tea Party and the consensus seems to be that Obama gave up far too much.  In fact, most are saying that this victory is in fact no victory at all.

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave the greatest American speech to date.  In that speech, he was able to transcend sides and bring all Americans back to the reason their country was founded in the first place:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I'm not suggesting that the Debt Crisis is Gettysburg-like in its significance.  However, there are two sides that are deeply entrenched in their positions and, if recent commentators on the debt deal are correct, those positions are as polarized now as before.  What would economic collapse mean to America?  It is a crisis.  It is a crisis that will require all sides working together.

Is there a focal point that the American people can look back to and be reminded that, at one time, they had a shared vision, a shared dream?  As the great melting pot--does such a place in history exist?  What is the "four score and seven years ago" of current day USA?

If such a place exists, is there anyone in politics today that can call that time into focus.  Who will bring the people back to their shared mission?  Is there a desire among people to serve a good greater than themselves?  Is the government still actually of the people, by the people and for the people?  Or is it now solely of the special interests groups who pay lobby the politicians most successfully?

Would Lincoln look on America today and declare that the dead at Gettysburg had died in vain?  Would he suggest that 150 years was "good enough?"

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