Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ringing in the New

Yet another celebration of a new year with its renewal of hope has now occurred, and that is good.
We humans do seem to prefer the possibilities of our future over the realities of the past.
But, the past also represents not only our history, but those things we prefer to just 'ring out', sometimes to our detriment.
As a sage has noted; 'those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it'.

And, how much of our history do we really want to repeat?
Maybe the best way that is practically available to us is to simply remember what works and what doesn't work so well.
If we were to find a way of doing that we might be better able to advance our civilization in more positive ways than have so often been the case.
Just imagine being able to expect the best of our leaders -and ourselves- instead of continuously being subject to under performance and stupidity!

As a first step, how can we insure that what we 'ring in' is really what we need and want?
Maybe we could start with how we choose those who will lead us, whether they are qualified, believable and trustworthy.
Then, we'll need to determine how to make them actually accountable for meeting our expectations.
Both parts are equally important in this, but its pretty hard to get to the second part without first choosing the right leaders!

Unfortunately, there are many contemporary examples of this continuing dilemma.
As inspiring and successful as our democracy has been, it is poorly equipped for insuring a process of continuous improvement in our governance, and at almost every level.

Having witnessed the very poor performance of the Bush administration in international affairs, our domestic economy, relentless partisanship and its general lack of credibility, we are also now presented with the prospect of a new President appealing to such a range of intractable problems that it will likely be impossible for his new administration to satisfy all our expectations.
Wouldn't it have been more desirable to have avoided some of the problems that have befallen us, like being led into the Iraq 'war' by deception and outright lies?
And, before that, did we do an adequate job of vetting the qualifications of Bush 43?
By 'we', I mean the American people -the voters- not the established political parties, the media and the spinmeisters who have become part of our quality problem.

Why didn't Congress resist Bush's war?
Weren't those people also affected by the forces and systems that allowed 43 to be elected?
That would seem to demonstrate that our periodic lack of electoral and legislative quality control will not likely be simple to fix, and that repairing this weakness probably goes well beyond judicial interpretations and remedies.
In short, it will depend upon us -the voters- to always be alert to abuses of power and to always demand better elected representatives, then hold them accountable.
A big job that only we can handle!

Even in the case of suspected major wrongdoing, we seem to be exceedingly handicapped in ridding ourselves of offending officials; as illustrated by the case of the Illinois Governor, who defies his need to leave office because of self imposed ineffectiveness.
Then, there are the multitudes of elected officials at regional, municipal and special purpose jurisdictions who consistently underperform, posture, pander and cling to office anyway.
In every case, the clear solution is for us voters to pay attention, pressure these folks to do the right thing consistently -or at least adequately explain their votes with candor, and challenge them for office.
Hey, term limits aren't necessarily a bad thing! At least it allows more people to become elected, learn the issues and represent others.

Since the true price of freedom is eternal vigilance, we need all the help we can get to continuously improve our government.
So, instead of lazily relying upon idle hope and better expectations -as we often do when we 'ring in the new' at New Year celebrations- we might also consider 'ringing out some of the old' at election time!
Are we up to this?
I sure hope so!
After all, preserving what is best in our country is a worthwhile goal that ought to be our priority, despite generational gaps and other distractions.
If we are to remain as leaders of the free world, let's make sure we deserve that title!