I've been thinking a lot about governments. Having grown up in Liberal Bubble, USA I spent my youth investing my faith in Government, the solution to every problem. Those were golden years, Clinton was in office and in my naivete, I thoroughly believed the entire nation agreed with everything said on NPR. It wasn't until Bush won in 2000 that I realized there actually were Republicans. Since then, my political education has only eroded my vision of what I saw as a larger than life institution. This year, and really this week (just look at the NYTimes homepage), have shown me that governments are fragile. I began to catch on to this in the Fall, when I witnessed Egypt's ruling party design and enforce yet another victory. Additionally, three simultaneous news stories from this week's headlines have driven this point home. First, Tunisia's government is in peril after riots and demonstrations. The people are fed up with the First Family's wealth and corruption. As the Times states, they blame this greed for the rampant joblessness in their country. While this unrest I am sure has been brewing for a while, it was further instigated by a leaked cable as part of the WikiGate scandal. I might add that the President of Tunisia has been in power for 23 years. Second, Lebanon's government collapsed this week after Hezbollah pulled their members from the coalition government. The country, as it has on several occasions, is now waiting to see what happens next. And third, the United States witnessed an attempted assassination - one that left many dead including a 9 year old girl who just wanted to learn more about her government.
Perhaps weakness and the vulnerability of government are most apparent in the first two examples, but the third is for me, equally tragic. As the years have progressed, the political atmosphere in the United States has become so toxic that watching the news no longer feels educational. Educated political debates, essential to the health of our democracy, have turned into tabloid-style equivalents to rhetoric food fights. However embarrassing this may be to the country, the real threat is that vitriolic partisan clashes are no longer confined to just the campaign cycle. The misinformation that seeps like smoke from the nostrils of the dragon of hate is now permeating the every day work of our government. Important legislation is skewed or ignored simply to gain a victory for one side or worse, ensure defeat for the other. I fear that the country and 9 year old girls everywhere will pay a steep price for what I see as counter productivity. Perhaps the incident in Arizona, while I agree not necessarily politically motivated, is the proverbial smoke alarm we've all been waiting for.
I happened to catch a rerun of Oprah on TV the other day. Her guest was former president George W. Bush. The interview took place after he was out of office. Oprah asked him how it felt to lift off from the steps of the Capital on Obama's inauguration day. As he responded, they cut to a clip of Bush and his wife waving goodbye and flying away in the presidential helicopter. For all the disagreements between those on the Right and those on the Left, the United States has maintained a peaceful and law-abiding transfer of power based on set term limits since its creation. If we lay our weapons down, both literally and figuratively, I think we'll find that we have the foundations of a government that works. Given the political realities of many countries today, this is truly a blessing. As we walk the thin line between hatred and empathy, I hope we start leaning in one direction more than the other.