For those of you fans of lexicography, you may find it interesting, even fascinating that the words united and united are made with the same six letters simply reversing the order of the two in dead center. They are potential antonyms but the two words are seldom used that way. In the United States of America, Americans strive for both things; united as a people and as a nation, and at the same time untied; free to think and believe as we choose.
Last night, the three Democrat candidates performed their last debate before the Iowa Caucus or Hawkeye Cauci, as it were, in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders demonstrated their difference in the future of health care; Clinton wants slight modifications on the now status quo Obamacare a.k.a. The Affordable Health Care Act while Sanders wants to virtually eliminate private insurance and convert Medicare to National Health, i.e., socialized medicine as in Canada and a majority of European nations. But in their closing statements, all three including Martin O’Malley stated the key to America’s future is to unite all of the American people.
A novel idea, but one of the most deceptive claims in advertising is called the incomplete claim. Take an old time slogan like You can be sure if it’s Westinghouse. Sure of what? Sure it will break down? Unity is one of the three God given powers of the human race along with submission and the spoken word. Of the three powers, unity is the most ambivalent, the most omnipotent, and the most difficult vehicle to drive. It is the power of unity that allowed Adolph Hitler to rise to power in the 1930s and forced America and its allies into World War II and make the ultimate sacrifice. The first thing Hitler did was ban free will and convince Germans to become part of a master race where everybody is the same and thinks alike.
Since the disbandment of the Dixie faction of the Democrat party further right than Republicans and power in Dixie shifted to the Republican Party circa 1995, we saw the birth and growth of The Great Divide where gridlock in Congress is the rule and the two major political parties are in competition working for themselves and their parties and not for the American people. Sure, this is a call for unity. But be forewarned of the dangers of unity for the sake of unity.
The system is not completely broken; it is just overdue for a tune-up and oil change, as it were. The current scenario of two rival parties getting nothing done is frustrating, but can never destroy American democracy and the American way of life. Our Founding Fathers wanted to ensure the legislative branch not become a law-passing dynamo because most of what we need is in the Constitution as we are the only nation in the word, in the history of the world to establish a constitution that is not just an operating manual for government, but a directory of our inalienable rights and that no laws shall be passed that impede these rights. The real danger is in unanimity, as was understood by the great philosopher Plato.
There are 535 members of Congress, a president, and nine judges on the Supreme Court, making up the D.C. 635. If 635 people agree on everything, there are only two possibilities; either everybody is right or everybody is wrong; and when everybody is wrong, everybody thinks they are right. Congress was never intended to be a fraternity where everybody dresses the same everybody talks and acts the same way. Plato warned us of the dangers of direct democracy evolving into mob-ocracy if the masses were united around something bad or untrue and spoke in favor of polity, which is another term for republic or representative democracy; a legislative body like the Congress rather than one supersized New England Town Meeting. It is easier to deal with corruption with 635 people than 635 million people.
While George Washington warned us of political parties running this country, he was in his day a member of the Federalist Party, but believed political parties should be used to launch ideas but to run for office as an individual and to not take party affiliation with you to the elected office. Over the years, the need for a two-party system became a necessary evil because with several micro-parties popping up here and there, we would end up like France and at best achieve plurality, but no majority. It makes perfect sense to have one distinct party for liberal thinkers and one distinct party for conservative thinkers; but it requires the engine run the way it is intended. An unfortunate side affect is the conservative party became the party of the wealthy and the elite forcing the working-class majority towards the liberal party even if they are conservative thinkers at heart.
Our Founding Fathers intended Congress to implement the Platonian dialectic, one of the greatest and most sophisticated power tool to enhance the power of the spoken word. One side states a thesis and the other side responds with an opposing view called antithesis. The learned men [and women] extract the best of each and form a synthesis. The synthesis becomes a new thesis and those opposed reveal the antithesis to once again be synthesized. The process continues until equilibrium is reached, i.e., when there is no viable antithesis. Both sides are untied and encouraged to think freely to uncover as many antitheses as possible and then when the final synthesis is achieve, to then unite around that solution and turn it over to the president in the form of a bill. Some people call this loyal opposition. As a conservative, instead of competing with an opposing liberal view, I need to allow it to complete me. No man is an island and I am no exception. I am not right all the time and I allow myself to be checked and balanced by an opposing view, then settle on a relative truth. This way we are united around truth, not falsity.
The problem in Washington and in state capitals and town halls as well today is modern politicians have broken away from the dialectic and have turned two-party system politics into a team sport; shouting their ideas unwavering and whichever side scores the most points wins. This was another one of George Washington’s warning on political parties. But creating a Congress that agrees on everything is not the answer. The status quo shuts down American democracy, but total agreement will destroy it. Both parties need to show up to the halls of Congress with their own ideas. They just need to stop playing gladiator and start playing legislature! Go into the game untied with compassion and free-thinking and at the end of the day, be united with, by, and for the truth.
In 1775, right before the American Revolution began, a man named John Otis, who many historians claim to be the real founder of the revolution, attended a meeting with a group of people including Sam Adams, who was the ultimate rabble rouser in his day. The meeting was held in a private home in the outskirts of Boston, in an attack which required climbing a ladder to enter. They knew little of Alzheimer’s disease in 1775, by Otis was probably in the early stages. Nonetheless, he made it up the ladder and dutifully attended the meeting. He asked the committee the fundamental question that need be asked before any act of war, What are we fighting for? Otis and Sam Adams seldom saw eye to eye and Adams responded to rid ourselves of these infernal redcoats! It was the wisdom of John Otis that prevailed that night when he explained that if it were not for the British Empire, [we] would not be here in the first place, referring to the Jamestown settlement. A good parallel to President George H.W. Bush in 1990 telling his fellow Americans as well as Iraq that the Iraqi people are not our enemy, only that brutal dictator in Baghdad (i.e., Saddam Hussein). Adams then replied with taxation without representation! Yes, said Mr. Otis but it goes even deeper than that. We are fighting for our inalienable rights! In 1775, a year before the Declaration of Independence, forming an new nation was not the objective—we were willing to settle with George III once he began recognizing the rights of the colonists. King George unwilling to cooperate, we declared our independence on July 4, 1776 and won the war five years later.
As I frequently make reference to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers but not to emulate them to a tee, we learn from John Otis that those in power need to drop their swords and shake hands and strive to be unified, but to delay gratification and go to work using the dialectic until we are unified around the truth, and not some false profit or some Satanic being like Adolph Hitler.
UNITED and UNTIED vary with the order of the third and fourth letter. The greatest challenge of living in America and preserving freedom and democracy is we have to be both of these things; otherwise we make ourselves obsolete and end up just marking time until doomsday.