In my science fiction story, things changed on the evening of September 11, 2001. When the United States Congress stood as one on the steps of the Capitol, singing "God Bless America," a new sense of unity was instilled among the leaders of our great land, from sea to shining sea. That's when a new set of national priorities emerged: compassionate conservatism, without the stigma attached to either term. We could take care of our own people and use the terrorist attacks as a wake-up call for our foreign policies and involvements. That's the science part. The fiction comes in when we look at how far away from that ideal we have moved since that dark day.
I thought of this as I looked over Mitt "German for With" Romney's proposed spending plan for when he becomes president. Right at the top, he says that "we have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in." I get the idea, but "moral responsibility?" Fiscal responsibility? Sure. And how is cutting funds for public health care while increasing military spending "moral?" On the flip side, do I believe that raising the tax rate on billionaires will suddenly bring a rush of cash into our coffers and solve our leaky deficit problem? Am I even exactly sure what a coffer is? It's my party that wants to cut farm subsidies and funding for NASA. At least we get to keep public broadcasting to complain about it.
And so the seesaw madness continues. The art of compromise is not to be entered into lightly. It takes time and consideration, but rarely provides clever sound bites or bumper sticker slogans. The idea that there is a right way or a wrong way to make this country run is fundamentally wrong in itself. Sure, we've bounced off the guard rails a few times over the past two hundred and fifty years, but mostly we've kept it between the lines. When we have landed in a ditch, we've found ways to turn things around and get it back on the road. The United States has a pretty impressive track record in spite of all the rhetoric you might hear from this side or that at any given time.
Over the next few months, we're going to get blasted with plenty of that "our way" and "their way." But it doesn't have to be that way. We could all pull together and figure out the best solutions to the problems that ail us. There may not be a right or wrong way, but there is a best way to do things. It's not the Democratic Way or the Republican Way. It's the American Way. Cue the patriotic music.