Thursday, January 18, 2007

Can the center hold?

I'm excited about the prospects for Unity08, but I wonder if the center can really hold.Unity08 has an interesting perspective on "the issues." And, I suspect that, when people sit and think for a quiet moment, they'll come to the same place.
Unity08 divides issues facing the country into two categories: Crucial Issues – on which America’s future safety and welfare depend; and Important Issues – which, while vital to some, will not, in our judgment, determine the fate or future of the United States.

In our opinion, Crucial Issues include: Global terrorism, our national debt, our dependence on foreign oil, the emergence of India and China as strategic competitors and/or allies, nuclear proliferation, global climate change, the corruption of Washington’s lobbying system, the education of our young, the health care of all, and the disappearance of the American Dream for so many of our people.

By contrast, we consider gun control, abortion and gay marriage important issues, worthy of debate and discussion in a free society, but not issues that should dominate or even crowd our national agenda.

In our opinion – since the disintegration of the Soviet Union – our political system seems to have focused more attention on the “important issues” than the “crucial issues.” One result: The political parties have been built to address the interests of their “base” but have failed to address the realities that impact most Americans.
The problem with the center is that many in the American political system enjoy a good fight, and the middle isn't about a good fight, but about doing what is correct and in finding the third alternative. Could we focus on the crucial rather than the important?

I'm brought back to a poem by William Butler Yeats titled "The Second Coming."

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of "Spiritus Mundi"
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


I am particularly drawn to the imagery of the first eight lines. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold... The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity...

Can the center find a place in the American political spectrum? I pray so.

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