Monday, July 2, 2012

The Preposterous Notion of "Taking Our Country Back"

If there's one cliche to count on in today's bipolar America, it is the claim that we must "take our country back" from those seemingly "against us".

Perhaps everybody should consider how absurd this notion is.  Exactly whom should we take it back from?

The President?  Didn't we vote for him?  Congress?  Didn't we vote for them?  The Supreme Court?  Didn't we elect those who are constitutionally permitted to appoint and confirm them?

Every election for every single position in government -- let's "take back" X.  Let's take back Washington!  Let's take back Montgomery!  Let's take back Mobile!

I have always found this phrase to be unnecessarily incendiary.  Civilians "taking back" something governmental strikes me as a not-so-subtle reference to revolution.  In our bloodlust for everything exaggerated and black-and-white, the romantic dreams of an impassioned takeover so that things are the way we want them is hopelessly flawed in the grim realities of violence.  "He/she should be in our crosshairs!"  "I don't mean that literally!" everyone says.  Well, then how do you mean it?

To me, "taking back X" is similar rhetoric.  The metaphor is of war -- occupation from the enemy.  Those firmly embedded in the trenches of Republican or Democrat mentality (how's that for a war metaphor?) see the other side as the enemy.  If you're not with us, you're against us.  Each political "battle" is a victory for some and defeat for the rest.

Everyone wants to change government, it seems.  Each election we vote for change (or not), yet the political song has remained the same for our country for a long time.  Everyone blames the politicians, but we vote for them -- typically the same ones again and again and again.

Change comes with ourselves.  I think the biggest change that we can make is through our political mentality.  Why do we keep battling each other?  Why do we keep using these stupid war metaphors to illustrate who's "advancing" and who's "retreating"?  Must it be, at all times, "us against them" and a hostile no-man's-land in between?

Reality has indeed entrenched us in this war metaphor.  We the People are acting in terms of survival rather than selfless preservation.  You want change?  Perhaps you should consider the notion that most people you meet and know are not against you.  Even your "enemy" conservative or liberal buddy couldn't care less about your political wishes and desires over a dinner table or a football game.

The world of politics, history has told us time after time, shines when people come together.  When did compromise become a four-letter word?  Why does everybody hide behind social media (or blogs!) and spout their political beliefs onto the generally unappreciative crowd through the cruelty of a keyboard?  What happened to good old-fashioned teamwork?  Why does everyone seem to think that if someone disagrees with you, they're against your well-being?

Why?  Because, in many ways, you believe it.  Why else would you want to "take back" Washington, or Montgomery, or Mobile, or wherever matters to you?  Even as you sit in the same restaurant and chat about your families, or cheer on America during the Olympics in the same sports bar, or roast the same steak on a grill in your backyard?

Everyone wants the political landscape to change.  Perhaps first it is time to look at yourself in the mirror.