Thursday, August 27, 2009

Our Amazing Times: The Great Debate

We live in amazing times. I am sure that every generation has felt this. But I do believe that these days are truly amazing even when comparing them to the many days this nation has seen.

In the 1850's, the Great Debate surrounded the expansion and elimination of slavery. This was the fuel of the Lincoln-Douglas debates held in 1858 during the Illinois Senatorial campaign. Thousand turned out throughout the state to hear the question of slavery debated by a well-established and distinguished Steven A Douglas and his challenger, a little known lawyer with limited legislative experience named Abraham Lincoln. Crowds were enthralled by the debates. It became the place socially and politically to be in Illinois. The conversations held between Lincoln and Douglas had far reaching consequences and while Lincoln lost the election, his exposure nationally because of the debates, catapulted him into the presidency only two years later.

Today, another great debate rages. It is yet another debate with far reaching consequences. President Obama has put forth his plan for national health care. There are so many ins and outs of this legislation that it is nearly impossible for one person to digest.

Town Hall meetings, reminiscent of those public gatherings in 1858 are being conducted by senators and representatives all over the country. I don't think, in a million years, that these elected officials ever expected to be confronted with an angry electorate. As a matter of fact, when all of these Town Hall meetings began, I'm pretty sure that they figured there might be ten or fifteen in attendance tops. Quite the opposite has been true.

A large percentage of the American public is angry and very upset. They sense that some of our vital freedoms are at stake. Obama and the democrats have crafted a bill that would overwhelm this ailing economy with the burden of national health care. It is a sad commentary when you take into consideration how many millions of Americans, most working, do not have health insurance. This should not be. But what has agitated a large number of Americans is the fact that their voices have not been heard or listened to in many, many years. Vital issues have come and gone with barely a peep from the public. But now, the outcry is unmistakable. People are fed up.

They are fed up with a congress that routinely turns a deaf ear to the will of the electorate. They are sick of being treated as though they have not one day's worth of education. They stare from their self-imposed lofty perches in total indignation that the average American would come out in such numbers and loudly and clearly voice their opposition to their ideas. They call the average citizens a mob and some have even compared these ordinary people exercising the idea of democracy as Nazis. How ridiculously absurd.

I believe that the tremendous energy that we are witnessing is not only over the health care issue, but is also fueled by years of being neglected and double standards. What's even more frustrating is to understand that a great number of our elected federal officials have failed to even read the bill's huge number of pages.

Where will all of this end up? It is truly hard to say. We do need to do something about the inequity of the system. Far too many people have no coverage or far too little to adequately treat even the most common of ailments. But the federalization of such a huge percentage of the American economy is not the answer. The federal government can barely manage the cars for clunkers program. And that is a very small drop in an extremely huge bucket!

One of the Japanese military leaders voiced his fears regarding America, declared shortly after the bombing of Pear Harbor, "I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant." I thing the sleeping giant is once again arising. It is the middle class of this country who have borne the brunt of the federal government's give aways over the years. Our rights have been taken away. Our recourse to our elected representatives has diminished because if you do not have a lot of money and deep pockets to contribute to their political campaigns, you have virtually no voice in public policy. But now, at long last, the American people have apparently awakened and they are not happy with things as they see them.

It is important for us all to be fully engaged in this debate. But once the dust settles (and it will) we must continue to voice our opinions as a responsible electorate. We have been given the right to free speech. It is time to resurrect this vital, basic freedom and responsibility, practicing it on a regular basis. Who knows what other vital issues may have turned out differently? Perhaps abortion would never have been sanctioned if the giant had awakened some thirty plus years ago!