by Rick Bretz
Comedian and commentator on the human condition, George Carlin, in an interview not long before his passing, was asked to assess the state of politics, and in a larger sense, society’s issues.
Paraphrasing his statement, he said that the competitiveness between people is way out of balance to the cooperation we all must exercise in order to get things done in our lives.
This observation by the master wordsmith himself strikes at the core of today’s news cycle.
This statement can be applied to the individual or to the larger political arena. You can see it every day when politicians from both parties reverse 180 degrees on issues. They change their opinions just so the other side, the perceived enemy, won’t win.
Today political parties and individuals on social media want an ideological fistfight. If an opponent can’t win the political argument, then the dispute turns to the philosophical, moral, then religious battlegrounds. All the while nothing really gets solved.
Instead of discussing the issue and how to solve it, let’s just debate until a logjam occurs and nothing is moved down the river.
History has proven that winning sometimes means losing. For example, the Treaty of Versailles after the Armistice to end World War I forced draconian economic measure on Germany which sent their economy into a free fall. The treaty included territorial changes, mandates that required them to renounce sovereignty over colonies, a reparation that amounts to billions in US dollars, and military restrictions reducing the number of officers, military strength and hardware. These terms sowed the seeds of resentment and discontent in the German population. German WWI veterans Adolf Hitler and Herman Goering felt humiliated by the terms and felt that Germany was not defeated. They formed the Nazi party years later, gradually building the party numbers, then taking power by the voting polls and building up the military for aggression later, thus initiating World War II that caused destruction, devastation, famine, and murder on a global scale.
The Allies won the first World War but did society win as a whole? When taking into account the millions of lives that were lost in World War II, there were losers all the way around. When considering how World War I began with an assassination and how the family of Monarch’s leading the countries involved couldn’t solve their differences, it’s all the more shameful.
Today, with constitutional governments and bi-cameral legislatures, winning is also more important than accomplishing noble endeavors by working together. The recent government shutdown over the border wall is, unfortunately, an example for many generations to study later in the century.
What is more unfortunate is that the immigration debate can be summed up into a simple statement.
Let the good people in who want to contribute to society in a positive manner and keep the violent offenders out who want to add to the criminal element of our country. Treat people with dignity and decency.
It’s as simple as that.
If anyone disagrees with those statements, then they are just being contrarian for the sake of not giving any consideration to the other side of an issue.
Our law enforcement has enough to do without adding to the criminal group. In addition, no one wants terrorists crossing into our country so that they can strategize another 9/11 tragedy. At the same time, let’s be noble, respectful and magnanimous to those who need it and deserve it.
In his statement, Carlin didn’t say competitiveness is all bad, he just said it is out of balance. It is rewarding to be competitive in business and other professions. However, some professions like politicians and other jobs within government, need to cooperate to move the process along.
There are some issues where an issue clearly has a right and wrong side. For instance, civil rights legislation and the right to vote. The simple fact that it took until 1919 to give everyone the right to vote and until 1965 to give everyone a fair shake when it came to employment and other areas of life should give everyone pause for thought. The good news is that we all live in a country where mistakes are corrected and that eventually, we can elect a President Barack Obama.
Despite your political views, President Obama did a good job. Remember, for much of his two terms he had a Congress controlled by the other party. He made decisions he thought were best for the country.
The recent Dr. Martin Luther King Remembrance Day is a time to reflect on what he accomplished. It is also a perfect time to look over his speech at the Washington Mall. The “I Have a Dream” speech is a symphony in words summing up an idea for the whole world to act on, regardless of race, gender, country of origin or religious practice.
Unless a person is intent on creating evil and misery in the world, most everyone can agree on many issues and ideas. No one wants war, violence, murder, terrorism, religious persecution, gender harassment or all the other unfortunate elements of life many of us deal with during a day.
To be realistic, evil exists in the world. As much as we would like to believe people are good, there are many who want to damage individuals and work against the greater good. Society has nurtured governments and elected people to decide where to compromise and cooperate. Government officials should set an example. Statements from government officials such as “He or she has learned a lesson” or “we’ve shown the other side of the aisle how tough we are” make the goal of cooperation harder to achieve. Elected officials represent their constituents, but they have a greater responsibility to work together rather than against the country, which is what they are doing now.
George Carlin was a brilliant comedian but he also observed humanity on a higher level.