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America in 2014

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					                                                                     America in 2014
                                                                 by Frank Kaufmann, 01/03/14
                                                                                     Page 1


                                               Nations, like people, are full of flaws
                                               and inadequacies. On the bright side
                                               though, we believe that we can
                                               improve if we try. Nations are also like
                                               people when it comes to the habit of
                                               mind that thinks "things were better
                                               back when."

                                               "I wish I were a kid again... not a worry
                                               in the world." "I wish I were in my 20s
                                               again... Those were the days."

The temptation is there now when we look at our current situation in America,
"America was better back when... things have declined so." But we know on a
personal level that a forward-looking, self-improving frame of mind is healthier and
more sound. When we take a closer look, we quickly see that "those great days"
weren't really all that my selective imagination chalked them up to be. This same
snapping out of it and common sense should arise when looking ahead to America in
the year to come.

Three guideposts can help chart our path forward and set up a good ground for
progress as a country. The important but obvious inventory of strengths and
weaknesses, and also noting which special areas or occasions stand in high relief as
areas of challenge and struggle. By noting these, our plans move away from generic,
ineffective lurching at vague efforts for betterment, and we can begin to design our
improvement more clearly and with better focus.

For America in 2014, the areas and occasions of recent vintage that stand in this
position of high relief are Syria, Benghazi, and Korea-Japan-China internationally, and
the NSA, theAffordable Health Care Act, and the Phil Robinson-GLAAD-A&E fiasco
domestically.

Whether as a person or a nation, being self-conflicted is debilitating and self-
destructive. Greater internal harmony, and singleness and clarity of identity and
purpose make us successful and effective. Self-conflict is the opposite. We commonly
hear the cry against "partisanship." This is important, but it is not complete because
the cure is a call for leaders to be "bi-partisan." Bi-partisan suggests a habit of
"cooperating," but not the more radical call for greater substantial harmony among
                                                                           America in 2014
                                                                       by Frank Kaufmann, 01/03/14
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public servants.

Currently America is in an extended and deepening state of internal conflict caused
by many factors. If this persists, our country will decline precipitously. But this
debilitating divide need not prevail. The current internal conflict, intense though it be
is not terminal. We can recover, even though current political environment and
conditions are not conducive to begin this long trek to recover greater national unity.
Nevertheless progress in this direction is possible.

The special and strong obstacles to our urgently needed greater national unity lies in
the three things. 1. This is a time of radical transition in politics. 2. We still have a long
way to go with Mr. Obama as president, and 3. We have a president and
congressional supporters who are more extreme than moderate in their political
impulses and behavior. Much of the opposition is like this too. These facts portend
greater fracture and brokenness in our national fabric. Unfortunately we cannot
afford that.

The radical transition mentioned refers to the impact of communications technology
and social media on the electoral process. Between America's liberals, and her
conservatives, it so happened that the left wing secured greater mastery and control
of these new tools of politics first. And so we sit in the middle eight long years of the
Obama administration.

Given the six areas-occasions, three international, three domestic that highlight
America's divisions, we have to ask, are there any overarching elements we can
identify and call upon that are greater than our divisions, elements that can help us
rise above our current ideological conflicts? Does America have any universal ideals
that are not subject to Balkanization and division, ideals held by all Americans? Yes.
She does. They are the elements of our national identity that once made us both a
good and a great nation, a nation that was admired and looked up to, even in a
world of enmity, jealousy, and resentment. The true appeal of this country was never
just about her god-given material wealth. This is not about papering over important
ideological differences. It is about forging the capacity to benefit from difference, to
grow stronger and better from it, even strong, fiercely held difference.

These unifying universals that once made America good and great, and that can
help America now recover her health are two things, applicable to both domestic
                                                                         America in 2014
                                                                     by Frank Kaufmann, 01/03/14
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and foreign policy, one growing out of the other. They are the last five of "thirty-one
words tightly compressed into one sentence, a sentence that is more universally
known and more often repeated in America than any other." The 31 words? I pledge
allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it
stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The last five
still belong to every American. Liberty and justice for all. What is this liberty? They are
found in the first amendment, the free exercise of religion; freedom of speech,
freedom of the press; the right to assemble peaceably, and the right to petition the
government for a redress of grievances. Delightful. A magnificent basis for a country
of even the most intense diversity, sufficient to rally us when unity is so urgently
needed. Left or right, Plymouth Brethren or atheist, rich or poor, there is not a soul who
does not want these, and hopefully not a soul who would deny these to others. And
should our bigotries arrogance, and intolerance tempt us to deem a group or two
unworthy, then let us correct ourselves at least in light of self interest. Martin Niemöller,
the famous Protestant and outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler who spent the last
seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps, wrote First they came for the
Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist... At the end of his
musings it reads, Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I
was not a Jew. Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me."

Once we have it right at least for our fellow Americans, foreign policy should naturally
extend from this identity as people from every stripe who valiantly, shoulder to
shoulder and without exception stand risking even our lives for liberty and justice for
all. For all.

The struggle to forge an effective and righteous foreign policy is always challenged
by the strong force of ugly, crass, national self interest. To see this in light of the
person-nation metaphor again it is the national and international version of the fact,
nobody likes a selfish bastard, no matter how rich or important you are or think you
are.

Self interest is a natural and healthy part of human affairs, both for people and for
nations. We cannot live nor survive without it. The point is though, it cannot be the
main thing, the first thing. We must lead with our goodness. This has been missing from
our foreign policy for some time. It began with our acceptance of fear.

What is America's goodness? Yes, we are a vast, wealthy, powerful, and beautiful
                                                                       America in 2014
                                                                   by Frank Kaufmann, 01/03/14
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land, but above all we should be known as the people who seek everywhere and all
the time liberty and justice for all. America's foreign policy should grow from this core
goodness. Hello, I am an American. We believe in liberty and justice for all. The
freedom to practice your beliefs, to express your beliefs, to write and publish without
threat, and to gather peaceably. Just do not exercise these liberties in ways that
deprive even one other of her right to do the same.

The three domestic and three foreign policy challenges that are central in our
struggle to grow and get better, are best met in this transcendent American ideal to
become a nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. The first amendment opens
our way. Each has the right to our beliefs and to express and practice them. To make
our nation whole we need to recover this. It is properly the way of every American
and of its government, to emulate the ideal coined by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, "I
disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." The
actual Voltaire quote was stronger "I detest what you write, but I would give my life to
make it possible for you to continue to write."

In sum, in America we should converse. Let ideologies rage, but never let them
override our pledge of liberty and justice for all. On wedge issues, even extreme hot
button, sexual orientation issues, there never should be a day when an American is
deprived or denied his or her first amendment rights. It is not easy, but that is who we
are, and what we are about.

With the NSA horrors that were exposed by Edward Snowden last year, the issue is this;
are there government agencies violating the constitution, especially the fourth
amendment, privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable
searches, and the fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination, which
provides protection for the privacy of personal information? If there are, then
lawmakers must correct and modify these agencies, or else shut them down. It is
better to live under the threat of harm, than in an America whose citizens are
surreptitiously invaded and deprived of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

On universal health? Is there an American who thinks some Americans deserve
medical care and others do not? Is there anyone who would prevent people in need
from getting medical help and attention? On this matter of simple human
compassion, there is no difference among ideological adversaries. The difference lies
in the political and social concepts that would make health care good, fair, and
                                                                         America in 2014
                                                                     by Frank Kaufmann, 01/03/14
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efficient. A great many of us find government to be meddlesome, prone to excess,
wasteful, intrusive, and inefficient. A great many feel that even with the noblest
aspirations, the federal government is the exact wrong place to seek a more fair and
more efficient management of health and medical needs. But this is a question of
political ideology. It is not a question of different ideals. Unfortunately for those hostile
to big government, we are in a time of big government. But that's just how it is. So, yes
let political challenges abound, but no, do not let us divide as a people. We cannot
afford it. With common ideals, we can converse.

As we re-weave our identity on even the most contentious and embattled arenas
domestically, our identity and core goodness can gain strength naturally, and then
can begin once again to define and guide our foreign policy decisions. In time,
hopefully we can act and come to be known as the nation and the people defined
by the ideal of liberty and justice for all. Yes, a nation with self interest, but not self
interest at the expense of all else.

Because of America's wealth, power, and influence, she must be involved in world
affairs. Important theaters include the Middle East in concert with Europe, the repair
of the intensified destabilization of North Africa caused by aggressive, Western self-
interest, and investment in America's Pacific Rim, most importantly among the North
Asian nations Korea, Japan, and China. In the Middle East, the greatest center of
raging flames happens in this moment happens to be Syria, and in North Africa, Egypt
and Libya and bordering lands are crucial.

The precise path for each track, diplomatic, political, military, economic, and cultural
is complex. Ideological contenders will battle fiercely to define positions on a broad
spectrum of approaches ranging from dialogical to militant and militaristic. But these
hues are natural to the ebb and flow of political life. More important than the
calculus of any given strategy or design is that American foreign policy grow to
recover and reflect the identity in which America's greatness and America's
goodness are synoptic. Regardless of which ideology has the upper hand at any
given moment, it should always and at least be the case that legislators are
committed to policies that rise above the unwelcome ugliness of pure self interest.
American actions in world affairs should bolster our founding identity as a nation
devoted to liberty and justice for all.

				
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Description: An article about the moral direction America should take in 2014 for both domestic and foreign policy