Opinion

Commentary: I want my country back

I want my country back.

The one where a message of personal responsibility and the value of a good education is celebrated, not denigrated with suspicion and hostility.

The one where the opportunity to hear from the president of the United States is seen as a once-in-a-lifetime event, not decried as propagandistic indoctrination.

The one where public debate is engaged by reasonable people concerned with solving common problems, not radical voices making stuff up to misinform, inflame and divide.

This country is called the "United" States for a reason.

It's because once upon a time representatives of a motley collection of colonies considered it in their best interest — for the present and the future — to come together under a federal government that could serve their common needs while letting them have a degree of autonomy.

We aren't the "Secessionist" States, the irresponsible pandering of our opportunist Texas governor notwithstanding.

And despite the color-coding labels used by pundits and others who find it clever, we aren’t even the "Red-or-Blue-Choose-Only-One" States.

Maybe I'm deluded, but I believe that a majority of Americans still respect the office of the presidency and its occupant — whoever that might be — even if they consider some of his actions ill-conceived, disappointing or wrongheaded.

A majority believes that it doesn't promote the general welfare to demonize our national leaders as socialist or fascist, evil conspirators, lawbreakers or liars.

A majority believes that no individual, political party or interest group has a monopoly on good ideas, and that we don't progress by living in bubbles where we listen only to those who look and think like us.

A majority believes that extremists on the airwaves, the Internet and elsewhere do not contribute to domestic tranquility by stirring fear, spreading malice and reaffirming our worst biases.

If our leaders are misleading us, acting above the law, abusing their office or otherwise breaking their commitment to those who elected them, then of course they should be called out and voted out. But seeing sinister conspiracy behind every Web head is using free speech as a cudgel, not a tool for enlightenment.

The vitriol aimed at President Barack Obama's back-to-school address is emblematic of mindless opposition.

Culture conservatives are adamant about wanting public schools to teach kids values such as respect, hard work, personal responsibility and patriotism. But heaven forbid the president of the United States should talk to students about hard work, personal responsibility and dedication to their goals and to their country. That somehow smacks of indoctrination.

Sheesh!

Because President George W. Bush took the country into war on false pretenses, disregarded the law on wiretapping and treatment of detainees, and damaged the Justice Department’s reputation for fairness, his most vociferous critics wrongly insisted that he could do no right.

Because President Obama hasn't righted the economy, has called for health care reform that could carry a mind-boggling price tag and advocates some ideas that challenge right-wing ideology, a relentless minority stubbornly — and wrongly — works to caricature him as a menace to America.

Loyal opposition this isn't, because loyal opposition isn't bent on destruction. It's dedicated to constructive criticism that leads to better laws, better policies, a better future.

Four years ago, I wrote about mainstream Americans worried about staying afloat during repeated downsizings, about paying for their healthcare, about whether their kids would find a decent job.

I believe mainstream Americans want solutions to a very real healthcare crisis, not knock-down drag-outs at town hall meetings. They want rational discussion about improving the economy, putting people to work, making college affordable, reducing the federal deficit, and enabling people to provide for their own and their families’ physical and emotional security.

They're worried about problems that we can work with our government to fix. Now, if only cooler heads would prevail and stop getting sidetracked by phony controversies fanned by extreme voices who don't speak for the majority of Americans.

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