Saturday, September 28, 2013

Civics Lesson for Republicans: Thank You, Senator McCain

Reflection on remarks made by Senator John McCain, September 25, 2013.  Video, quotes, and commentary by "Owen" at  Carbonated TV, a CNN site

"Do you argue to win?"  

Over thirty years of my asking that question, thousands of middle school students have said, not just yes, but heck, yes (to avoid demerits for stronger language).   

When I point out that the Constitution and Justice systems of our nation are built on the idea that we argue to find the truth, young students are baffled.   It's the simple idea (on which science is based) that truth emerges from fair, informed, reasonable debate.  From TV and bumper stickers, they thought our nation was built on "God, guns, and guts" or else something vague like "freedom" which seventh graders hear as "unfettered access for me to get stuff." 

"Freedom" is another word for mutual respect, period.   Anything else is license or privilege. 

Respect for each individual person means respecting property and freedom of speech; it comes with the responsibility to respect the others'. Inevitable collisions between a majority of people in a community and those in the minority will have to be resolved in compromise, arrived at through a process of, you guessed it, fair, informed, reasonable debate.

Though this process has frequently been marred by repression and violent conflict, US history is largely the story of our growing into "a more perfect union" in which fair, informed, reasonable debate can involve all who live here. 
Name-calling, obstruction of those procedures, gross generalizations, and the "win-at-all-costs" mindset poison the process.  They poison the spirit of the process.

Senator John McCain recently stood before the Senate to remind those who call themselves Conservative what Conservatism used to mean.  Responding to some twerp in his party who equated a stand against "Obamacare" with the stand that Germans should have made against Hitler (!), McCain methodically enumerates the ways in which fair, informed, reasonable debate and also compromise resulted in the Affordable Care Act. 

McCain cites more than a year of working through committees and hearings, a month of focused debate (weekends included), and dozens of Republican amendments accepted by the Democratic majority.  

McCain reminds his colleagues that the healthcare reform was a major issue in the last campaign.  "The people spoke... and re-elected the President," McCain concludes, adding, "much to my dismay."  He doesn't like it, but will he obstruct the law from going into effect?
"Elections have consequences," he admonishes those hotheads, and "respect [the] outcome of elections that reflect the will of the people."

That's real conservatism.  That's what makes America exceptional.  Those other guys who call themselves conservative?  They need to go back to seventh grade.  

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