Hayden’s guide to watching the parties’ national conventions in the next couple of weeks

Not only have the political parties become increasingly polarized in the past 8 years, there has been considerable coverage of splintering with the parties, particularly the GOP.  Since the Tea Party was gradually co-opted after its 2010 victories in the mid-term elections, other factions have sought to control of the party and define the party’s goals.  In the next couple of weeks, you may hear claims that unless their platform is victorious, it will be “the end of the world.”

It’s amusing to go back and look at the coverage of previous conventions in the past 150 years, and see the other ones that also claimed that it would be “the end of the world” unless their candidate and their party won.   It seems like it’s happening more often here in the 21st century, and we may find ourselves wondering if they’ve cried “Wolf!” too many times, and if this is one of the reasons that so many Americans have lost trust in our political parties, and in the fairness of the political process.

If you find yourself watching something along these lines in the upcoming GOP and Democratic national conventions, ask yourself what a better process could be.  What would be better for our country, than using our nation’s biggest challenges as skewed sound bites to embarrass one’s opponent – could we actually make a dedicated effort to address these challenges, and not just in the rhythm of the election cycle?

Imagine, if you will, coordinating a nationwide focus on one major issue, such as education.  What if, instead of devoting energy, publicity and resources toward how that issue – which is critical in the lives of everyday Americans – can leverage a particular candidate’s future, that a core group who believe in our country’s future dedicated their efforts to assessing the problems and identifying innovative and feasible solutions, to present to legislators and to state and local governors and councils?  Then the next year, a similar group of new individuals dedicated their efforts to another issue, be it national defense, veterans affairs, poverty, etc. – while the first group continues in their support of education issues to get the needed legislation, policies, and resources in place to make a difference on that front?

I see this as a path to success for our country, instead of ammunition for one of the political parties.  Imagine, if you will, the change in the trust of the American people, if they could see for themselves the progress toward a better condition – in their own states and counties, as well as in Washington D.C. – and the emergence of long-term solutions, not more PACs or Occupy movements, or even bigger government?

What if there was an “end of the world” of the kind of politics that has thrived on brinksmanship, incomprehensible debt, and loyalty oaths?  Do we fear boredom, if we lose the political reality show that we seem to find ourselves in now?  If you find yourself watching the conventions, step back from the hype and consider how much of a fear factor is playing out, in the competing “end of the world” claims.

The Four Freedoms

As families sit down together for their Thanksgiving dinner, some may remember an illustration by Norman Rockwell in which generations of a family are gathered around a table as the grandmother brings in a large turkey.  The painting’s title is “Freedom from Want” and it was one of the Four Freedoms series that Rockwell painted during WW II.
In addition to being thankful for the blessings of food, families and friends, and our communities, recent world events remind us to be thankful for the freedoms of the U.S.  Another of the paintings in Rockwell’s series was called “Freedom from Fear.”  It is a freedom we still need to defend today.
A big difference between how Rockwell’s paintings were viewed during WW II and how they are seen today, is a reflection of the confidence of our nation that was depicted in them. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had given a speech about not being ruled by fear, that the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.  Our leadership then had an understanding of the effect of war and how it consumes nations; of what fear is, and how it consumes a society. For them, the U.S. was the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave – not the Home of the Fearful, and the Land Led by Fear. 
At the end of WW II, our country and the world saw that evil was defeated when Hitler and the Axis powers were gone.  The problem was answered.  Our parents and grandparents, who saw themselves in the family members depicted in the “Four Freedoms” paintings, saw an image, an idea greater than a thousand words, although for each person those words are different.  They shared a common theme: those freedoms were what our country had been fighting for, they were the motivation for our goals, and the commitment for securing them was reinforced by the Allies’ victory.  They knew that absolute victory is eliminating the threat.  They had a lot to be thankful for.
Our leaders now are reluctant to provide answers.  Instead of clear commitments, we are now being led by polls.  But what we need is for our leaders to step beyond the emotions of the moment, and take the lead in setting the goals and objectives to eliminate the threat that the world now faces from terrorist activity.  Imagine what it would be like, next year at this time, if this problem was eliminated.  We need to realize that this is not a battle against ISIS – ISIS is just the current threat.  There will probably always be a reactionary or terrorist organization somewhere in the world.  Our leaders should recognize this and plan for it, identify the organizations, and position our nation to eliminate the danger. 
The threat we are facing is a threat to our freedoms.   It is not only our fear of terrorist activity being carried out in our country, but the fear that’s being used by some of our leaders in their decisions and in the explanations they give for them.  We cannot respond to challenges or threats in fear. 
We need leadership that will face our challenges boldly.  We need the same response to those who would take away our freedom through fear, whether in other parts of the world or here at home.  Absolute victory is eliminating that threat.  Let us be thankful for those that recognized this in the past and achieved victory.  Let us be thankful for the freedoms our Constitution gives us.  And let us be vigilant as we plan and prepare in order to protect our freedoms.