Wednesday, June 05, 2002

"I tolerate with the utmost latitude the right of others to differ from me in opinion without imputing to them criminality. I know too well the weakness and uncertainty of human reason to wonder at its different results. Both of our political parties, at least the honest part of them, agree conscientiously in the same object--the public good; but they differ essentially in what they deem the means of promoting that good. One side...fears most the ignorance of the people; the other, the selfishness of rulers independent of them. Which is right, time and experience will prove." Thomas Jefferson

I've been on vacation

Three days of sunshine, a beautiful view of the Sound, no phones, no news, lots of much needed sleep.

It was perfect.

Then a mad day of catching up with everything left undone for my business.

All of it has made George W. Bush, current events, the various crisis here and abroad seem exceedingly unreal and disconnected from me, personally.

But, of course, it's not. The country over the last 17 months has been in the process of profound transformation. Obviously that will mean something for all of us at some time or another. Although what exactly it will mean for each of us personally is impossible to predict. Can a thought I express here, now, have some surprising, unexpected, unwanted, unpredictable consequences years down the road? As the result of new monitoring of political speech and increased paranoia among Americans in general? What will the increasing loss of confidence in the ethics and honesty of American enterprise and global corporations mean in the long term -- to my customers? to my business? to America's relations with the world? to our economy in the long term? How will climate change, and the course of non-resistance the country appears to have decided will be its response to it, affect our future? What does it mean to be an average American in an era when the idea of democracy appears to be losing its appeal to so many -- especially so many of our most influential citizens? If we, at the highest, and, surprisingly, lowest, levels, no longer believe in the possibility and efficacy of compromise, the wisdom that can arise from honest conflict among a multitude of views, the necessity of tempering the "selfishness of rulers" (as Jefferson said) with the modifying influence of "the people," what do we believe in?

Do we believe in W? In Cheney? In Rumsfeld? In Ashcroft? Are we to abandon our faith and confidence in each other and place it all in the hands of a few men somehow deemed, or at least extolled as, wiser, or of a better cast of character, than others? When we abandon a politics of issues, interests and conflicts -- aren't we left with nothing but a politics of personality and power? And isn't that something extraordinarily close to what our forefathers despised and overthrew?

The current administration took office with a firm conviction that much that was done, through democratic means, in the past had to be undone. And with long-cherished, long-deferred ideas of what they would, could, should do. They've moved with energy, with disdain for consultation with anyone outside their limited circle, with the firm conviction that it was not part of their job to respond to the wishes and perceived needs of the people -- but rather to shape the wishes and needs of the people -- to translate their plans into actions.

There will, of course, be unintended consequences to all of this. What will those consequences be? How will we, average Americans, who still, nominally, retain some democratic power, if we choose to exercise it, respond to those consequences?


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