A broken nation needs leadership

By Phil Crossman, Special to the BDN
Posted Feb. 26, 2012, at 3:43 p.m.

America is broken and the brink of disaster that has arrived in so many places elsewhere in the world is close at hand. For a long while, before it was massaged into serving those who were to have served it, this democracy worked, albeit often slowly. Now it’s broken.

The disparity between those who are comfortable and those who are desperate, including many here in Maine, languishes as the gap widens and Congress is content to regard every day that passes without revolt as a good day and hope for another to follow. Unsustainability, so plain down at the level where our desperate people feel the results with bitter clarity, appears not to be clear at all to lawmakers.

When we less sophisticated voice concerns about our national debt, we are cautioned that economics on that level is different than what we deal with in our mundane lives and beyond our pedestrian understanding. Nonsense! Our $15 trillion debt, growing by billions every day, is a terminal condition that will soon overwhelm us just as surely as it has those Mainers who have gone under because ballooning debt exceeded income.

America is broken because it can only be fixed by higher taxes and reduced spending and in the face of intransigence, that seems unlikely. Higher taxes can only be imposed on those who have it to give and spending cuts can just as obviously only be made in areas where the difference between life and death would not otherwise translate into the latter but compromise, like representation nowadays, is dead on arrival.

Today legislation is the product of paid persuasion or privileged foreknowledge and is crafted by folks, in and out of Congress, who are invested in the outcome. Money ensures an earmark from which sponsors will profit, drives insider trading that’s the product of privileged information and exists now in such vast quantities that those surrounded by it are insulated from the lives of Mainers, among others, who coughed it up.

We are wasting lives. When my dad left for the war, the country had a sense of purpose. When the troops came back, that purpose was even stronger. There had been no question about why we had gone to war. There had been no question of whether we had achieved victory. The questions began soon enough though, first with the Korean War, certainly with the Vietnam debacle and the dumb little adventures that followed, and now, in the longest war of our history, there’s nothing but questions.

Lives are not lost for cause; they are expended, like bullets. In 1944 two crisp military men at the door, hats in hand, purpose unmistakable, was devastating. Grief, adorned but unadulterated, had arrived. Although they, with the toughest of assignments were bound to convey otherwise, anguish that passeth all understanding, had come to settle in. They dressed their delivery in the flag of patriotism, reminding the survivors that death had come in defense of our people and our flag and in large measure it had.

In smaller measure, it hadn’t exactly; but it at least came in defense of a clear purpose. Today the same scenario plays out when the shiny Department of Defense car pulls up but the well-rehearsed condolences don’t ring with that tiny consolation that once accompanied them. Instead they fall like dead weights.

If the truth were told they would say, “I’m sorry to inform you that your son has been killed. He didn’t die for any particular reason but the president nonetheless asks that you accept the condolences of a grateful nation.”

We have imprisoned hundreds of human beings loosely citing the rules of combat that allow us to call them “enemy combatants,” the hollowest of pretense, and leave them to rot in limbo and this administration does not have the courage of its professed conviction to extricate them and us from this inhumane quagmire that flies in the face of everything our country stands for.

Some will call this a pointless rant and suggest there are plenty of places I could go if I’m not happy here but I do like it here. I like it here because I have complete freedom — well, nearly — to express myself and to work for change in spite of today’s politics and this pathetic primary season. The character of our politicians reflects the character of those with money and thus influence and I have no faith that they have the capacity to or the interest in change. Others of us though, those closer and closer to the brink, may.

Phil Crossman lives in Vinalhaven where he owns and operates the Tidewater Motel.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/02/26/opinion/contributors/a-broken-nation-needs-leadership/ printed on December 21, 2014