On tonight’s Hardball, Chris Matthews, when discussing Judd Gregg bowing out of consideration for Commerce Secretary, referred to former New York Mayor John Lindsay (R), who according to Matthews said “there’s no Republican way to collect garbage.”
A wise man clearly ahead of his time.
(To my dear friend Anne: 1. Fact check, just like old times 2. More wise John Lindsay quotes 3. I remembered I always got the Ann vs. Anne wrong so I worked hard to get it right)
I embarked on the Purple State project because I need a voice of dissent in my life. The doubts of John Marks make me a better believer. He keeps me honest, keeps me questioning, keeps from getting comfortable. Can we continue to make room for the loyal opposition, even when it causes complications?
I join John Marks in a call for more than a new found cooperation. We donâ€™t expect people to abandon their principles, to set aside significant differences. But the gravity of our current crisis surely forces us to subsume our agendas for the sake of the greater good. There will be plenty of time to argue after weâ€™ve gotten out of this mess. Until then, I desperately need to come alongside those who want to forge a future for America. We can no longer afford to be entertained by surface distances or ideological divides. It is time to be adultsâ€“to work with skeptical neighbors, faithful friends, and disbelieving college roommates.
Below is a clip of John’s essay on what, exactly, a “Purple State of Mind” means. It doesn’t begin to do the entirety of “Let them eat purple cake” justice, so do yourself a favor and skip my version and read the whole thing HERE. John and his friend Craig of Purple State of Mind will join us in April for dinner. It might be one of your worst mistakes if you miss it.
… Itâ€™s about taking ourselves and our concerns seriously enough to demand the utmost of ourselves and our political and cultural opponents, the utmost in moral and intellectual rigor, the utmost in compassion and decency. Part of the problem for the last two decades has been a curious tendency to treat our great national debates as a cross between a game and a comedy routine. Oh, we insisted that our issues were matters of life and death, whether abortion or gay marriage, whether freedom of speech or the right to bear arms, but we hired huge numbers of professionals to fight those battles for us, our proxies, our mercenaries, our lobbyists, our activists, and their handiwork often enough turned the entire public discourse into a freak show fueled by the rage virus.
Our sham dialogues on cable news network, the Hannity and Colmes effect, were as deceptive in their own way as Wall Street practices that hid the truth about the markets. Now that our eyes are open, it is time to walk away from the game. It is time to despise the trivialization of those who have different worldviews, time to stop believing that reality has anything to do with television, and time to entertain the possibility that our divisions can take us to some very dark places, even Gaza and Mumbai, if we donâ€™t wake up.
The revolutionary American idea that the people were sovereign profoundly disturbed the old model: How could the state establish the religion of the sovereign if the sovereign people belonged to many faiths? The framers rose to the occasion. For the first time in recorded history, they designed a government with no established religion at all.
… The early republic was religiously diverse in that it was inhabited by several different Protestant denominations. This â€œmultiplicity of sects,â€ as James Madison brilliantly realized, ensured that no one denomination had the capacity to establish its own state religion at the national level.
… The dominant idea organizing church-state relations in the framersâ€™ era was the liberty of conscience, understood to protect religious dissenters-representing the religious diversity of the time-against compelled taxation to support teachings with which they disagreed.
…In America, the establishment of religion by the government came to be seen as posing a fundamental danger to the liberty of conscience by threatening dissenters with the possibility of coercion. The constitutional guarantee of nonestablishment sought to protect conscience from coercion by guaranteeing a division between the institutional spheres of organized religion and government.
â€œâ€¦You and I ought not to die until we have explained ourselves to each other.â€
So began the late-life correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the founding fathers described in the recent HBO mini-series â€œJohn Adamsâ€ as â€œthe north and south poles of our revolution.â€
Once friends, differences in opinion and political competition had taken a toll.
They, as others in the foundersâ€™ generation, had deep philosophical disagreements. But as they went about the business of building a country, an endeavor that if unsuccessful would surely lead to their hanging, they hardly had the luxury to stop talking to each other.
Despite the differences between them and the odds against them, the founders managed to cobble together their opus â€“ and ours â€“ the Constitution, which despite all probability still guides this diverse group of people forward together.
But, alas, â€œpolitics ainâ€™t beanbagâ€ and two election cycles later, Jefferson and Adams had no tolerance for one another.
Fast-forward a couple of centuries and most of us are likely to relate to the fix Adams and Jefferson found themselves in. We, like they, have deep disagreement with – and sometimes little tolerance for – one another.
Perhaps nowhere is this gap more profound today than on matters where faith and politics intersect.
It was a bold experiment the founders undertook when they broke with hundreds of years of history to form a country without an official religion. Woven through their work was the then radical belief that individual liberty was of the highest value, more important than the interests of government and kings.
Flowing inevitably from this notion was a strong commitment to individual religious freedom. The specifics of the relationship between church and state, however, produced disagreement, much as it does today. So they agreed where they could, agreed to disagree where they couldnâ€™t and kicked the sticking points down the road a bit.
Today our religious diversity is far beyond the imagination of the founding fathers, yet we are still a country with the freedom to worship as we choose.
Despite that astounding achievement, as the 2008 presidential contest put in sharp relief, we still donâ€™t see eye-to-eye about the role of faith in our union, just as we donâ€™t agree about economics, fighting terrorism, the role of government in our lives or really much of anything it sometimes seems.
Maybe more concerning than the basic disagreements, though, is the fact that weâ€™ve largely stopped talking – and most certainly stopped listening – to those with whom we disagree. We naturally surround ourselves – socially, in church, in our television viewing – with those who see it our way.
Lost in the sea of sameness is the healthy – though sometimes difficult – struggle of ideas between â€œneighborsâ€, akin to the struggle that birthed our democracy. It was, in fact, that very diversity of ideas that some founders expected would naturally protect the freedoms they held so dear.
Next Tuesday, The Village Square will fly in the face of this recent trend, ignoring good manners – and possibly good sense â€“ as we continue our Dinner at the Square season â€œFaith, Politics & Neighbors.â€ Our panel â€“ Center for a Just Societyâ€™s Ken Connor, Lawton Chilesâ€™ General Counsel Dexter Douglass, ordained minister and former Lieutenant Governor candidate Allison DeFoor and former FSU Religion Chair Leo Sandon â€“ will debate â€œFaith in the Public Square.â€
With two Democrats and two Republicans on the panel, they likely wonâ€™t agree.
But our foolishness only starts there. To mark the inauguration of a new president, we are inviting you to join us in lunch across the divide by inviting a conservative friend to lunch if youâ€™re a Democrat and a liberal friend to lunch if youâ€™re a Republican.
And, like Jefferson and Adams before you, explain yourselves to each other.
Adams and Jefferson ultimately died friends, having given history the gift of their final correspondence. They died on the same day, July 4th, 50 years to the day after the nation they built was born.
â€œWhether you or I were right,â€ Adams had written to Jefferson, â€œposterity must judge. Yet I ask of you, who shall write the history of our revolution?â€
The philosophical descendants of Jefferson and Adams are alive and well today in us, in this amazing American experiment â€œin the course of human events.â€
And we are still writing the history of their revolution.
Like the founders, we hardly have the luxury to stop talking to each other.
My “Faith, Politics & Neighbors” reading list is – well – let’s just call it diverse. The librarian is probably really wondering about me. One book on that list that I’ve found fascinating is The End of Faith by Sam Harris. Although the book’s basic thesis is quite hostile to organized religion, many of his points are actually central tenants of those committed to organized religion. Unfathomably, he’d agree with the conservative religious right on many things. More on that later.
One point that resonated with my Village Square take on things is his concept of a “moral community” as a limiter to our ability to bridge divides:
The notion of a moral community resolves many paradoxes of human behavior. How is it, after all, that a Nazi guard could return each day from his labors at the crematoria and be a loving father to his children? The answer is surprisingly straightforward: the Jews he spent the day torturing and killing were not objects of his moral concern. Not only were they outside his moral community; they were antithetical to it. His beliefs about Jews inured him to the natural human sympathies that might have otherwise prevented such behavior.
He continues more controversially and judgmentally, in what is an over-generalization in my mind but many would say is true in some cases:
Unfortunately, religion casts more shadows than light on this terrain. Rather than find real reasons for human solidarity, faith offers us a solidarity born of tribal and tribalizing fictions. As we have seen, religion is one of the great limiters of moral identity, since most believers differentiate themselves, in moral terms, from those who do not share their faith.
I’d argue that religion at its best absolutely does find real reasons for human solidarity, but religion at its worst – in the hands of us fallible humans – can dehumanize and divide.
So I’m slow with this coverage of pre-election commentary, but here’s a worthwhile clip from Tallahassee Democrat Editor Bob Gabordi’s blog:
America was built to change. Weâ€™re equipped for change by our constitutional process through civil discourse and honest debate.
If you believe in America â€“ really, really believe in what America stands for â€“ you have to embrace those with whom you totally disagree, listen to what they have to say and â€“ if you still disagree â€“ defeat their argument with wiser reasoning.
But if the best you’ve got is fear and hate, for Godâ€™s sake, donâ€™t say you speak as a patriot.
“I offer you the hand of friendship, the same commitment to partnership as I do my Democratic colleagues,” Obama said during his opening remarks during the National Governors’ Association meeting in Philadelphia at Independence Hall, a location known for bipartisan American efforts. “There is a time for campaigning, and there is a time for governing. And one of the messages that Joe and I want to continually send is that we are not going to be hampered by ideology in trying to get this country back on track.”
Obama continued, “We want to figure out what works. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to have some disagreements. But what it does mean is that if you can show me something you are doing that’s working or if you tell me that this program or this regulation is hampering us from doing smart things that will advance the interests of our state, then you’re going to have a ready ear.”
Apparently the CEOs of GM and Ford must have been reading this blog and listening to our advice.
The bosses of America’s two biggest car companies are promising to work for just one dollar a year, if the US Congress gives them access to a $25-billion loan.
That’s a start on The Village Square plan toward fiscal solvency for Detroit. Next, the CEO of the third biggest car company, Chrysler needs to go all in for the $1 annual salary. After that, it’s the employees’ (and union’s) turn to ante up on what they’ll do to ensure that American continues to manufacture marketable cars. After all that, we’ll talk dollars from taxpayers.
â€œI am aware that I am less than some people prefer me to be. But most people are unaware that I am so much more than what they see.â€ - Douglas Pagels.
One error we make that propels our incivility is the tendency to paint other human beings, notably those with whom we disagree, with too broad a brush.
In a discussion on the recent dive in the stock market, Bill Moyers had an interesting conversation with George Soros, the man the hard right in American politics loves to hate. Soros has written “The New Paradigm for the Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What it Means”. Soros, having lived through the rise of fascism in Germany has been sounding an alarm for a number of years now. Contrary to portraits of him that paint him as an extremist, Soros encapsulated his philosophy this way:
Both Marxism and market fundamentalism are false ideologies. I think the only [ideology that isn’t false] is… the recognition that all our ideas, all our human constructs have a flaw in them and perfection is not attainable. And we must engage in critical thinking and correct our mistakes.
If you’ve got quotes from Soros that sound less moderate, send them on…
I think music is the one thing that opens the door to bringing people to a place where they’re all connected. It’s easy to connect to the world through music. Religion, politics, a lot of those things… they seem to divide everybody.
BILL MOYERS: We were abroad these past two weeks trying to cleanse our journalistic pipes, so to speak. We thought we could put American politics out of sight and out of mind for a spell. We were wrong.
Everywhere we went people wanted to talk about America. The Greeks, Sicilians, Sardinians, Tunisians, Algerians, and Spaniards we met, were euphoric – cab drivers, guides, waiters, hotel clerks, bank tellers. They expect miracles from America. Their own economies are imploding: layoffs, budget shortfalls, failing banks, fear spreading among the populace. They want to believe that somehow the long arm of America will pull them back. I tried but I didn’t have the heart to tell them just how much trouble their rich Uncle Sam is in.
Maybe I was wrong not to dispel their illusions about America; after all, they live on top of the ruins of long-gone empires, whose rise and fall is a far more familiar and consistent theme of history than democracy’s success. I did my best, to say that America is trying very hard right now to put our own house in order.
That self-correcting faculty, even in the darkest hours, is the best thing we have going for us. That and the knowledge that nothing we face in the months ahead is more than was asked of our parents and grand parents in war and depression.
This giant of a country is bleeding badly from savage self inflicted wounds, but what happens next is still our story to write. We can be thankful for that.