Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. - Barack Obama
As John McCain’s so-called “campaign” continues to degenerate to a series of unfounded, vitriolic, and inflammatory accusations against Barack Obama as a person, perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on the one thing both sides seem to agree on: change is needed. That, at least, is an idea that seems to resonate.
So what kind of change do we need?
Let's begin by reminding ourselves that when a complex problem needs to be solved, there are virtually always more than two ways to go about it. Unfortunately, here in America, our democracy is firmly locked into a two-party system. Anyone outside the two mainstream organizations who makes a serious run for public office is viewed in one of two ways: a hopelessly unrealistic idealist (at best) or a crackpot who can’t fit into any of the established niches (at worst).
There have been times when this either-or system seemed to work well—usually when the country has been threatened by outside forces and, like a fractious family, came together in a spirit of “one-for-all-and-all-for-one.” That happened during World War II and, perhaps most recently, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
During times of relative peace and prosperity, however, we Americans tend to be led around by the nose by people—be they Presidents or pastors—who are passionate, or even fanatical, about one idea. Everyone is labeled either “pro” or “con,” “right” or “wrong,” “with us” or “agin us.” When things go wrong—as they most certainly have, in every aspect of public life, in recent years—we waste precious time and resources laying blame and trying to defend the old, tired ideas espoused by our own party.
So here’s the change we need: a president who’s not a traditional Democrat or Republican. Who brainstorms with anyone who has the brains, background, and creativity to offer viable solutions. Who can build consensus. Who can inspire ordinary people to participate in whatever way they can, large or small. Who is skilled at listening to all sides of an argument and forging a compromise that’s better than the status quo and that everyone can live with.
Focusing on one idea is a convenient substitute for thinking, and stirring up hate and contempt for people with different points of view is much easier than doing the intellectual work necessary to solve problems. Any lack of progress can be blamed on those idiots on other side of the equation who persist in not seeing things our way.
So as a nation, we need to stop being defensive, blaming others for our mistakes, and avoiding responsibility. We need to grow up. And we need a leader who inspires us to do that.