Monday, April 20, 2009

The Problem of Power

On November 4th, 2008 the torch of power was passed, again, to a new generation. The torch being passed is enshrined in the Preamble of the U S Constitution which is the purpose and goal statements for our nation.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Torch has passed to a generation born at the end of the Great Wars of the 20th Century. A generation whose grandparents survived the Great Depression and World War II and who set about rebuilding the post War world order, beginning with the signing of the Charter for the United Nations on June 26, 1945.

It was passed to the generation, whose fathers and uncles, mothers and aunts raised during the coldest days of the Cold War, who face the real prospect of nuclear destruction, who watched the decline of the colonial era and birthing of new nations, and who experienced the heights of national pride when the first man landed on the Moon on July 21, 1969 and the depths of national defeat when Saigon fell on April 30, 1975.

This new generation, born in the last third of the twentieth century, is the heir and beneficiary of the generations whose sacrifice, for better or worse, brought the United States of America at the turn of the millennium to the premier leadership position among the world’s nations.

In the opening days of the 21st Century, America and Americans basked in the hopes that a new century, a new millennium offered. The Cold War had ended. A new technology based on the computer and internet empowered and drove a decade of innovation and entrepreneurship. Cheap oil fueled the globalization of industry and commerce. Global prosperity appeared to be at hand. The new generation is the beneficiary of this legacy.

This generation is also the heir to another legacy. It is a legacy envisioned by the founding fathers. They proposed to a new national model designed to insure that future generations would secure the Blessings of Liberty. This model addresses, in the words of the late Robert F. Kennedy,

The problem of power[which] is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use — of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public. (RFK 1964)…

They designed a new national model found on the power of the people and based on the separation of that power into three branch of government. In the first three articles of the Constitution they built firewalls between three branches of the central government, and in Article 4, they built a firewall between the central government and the individual states.

Over the past 3 decades, we have seen the walls erode and power leak and drain away from the institutions they were assigned to and be soaked up by the central executive authorities. We see individuals work their way into positions of power in our government, private and public institutions who are not motivated by any sense of public responsibility, but by the lure of quick personal profit. We have seen individuals forgo the values of personal responsibility for the allure of immediate gratification. Collectively we have watched as a generation sold off their children’s future to the credit card companies and other nations. We have seen and experienced the short sighted leadership of our politician engorge themselves by stealing from the public treasury to insure their re-election.

Wealth is based on the trust of the body politic in their institutions. That trust is missing today. As a result today, we are faced with weakened government, a bleeding financial system, a debilitating war of our own choosing, and a less than perfect sense of union.

For the past half century, we have been drugged out on an ideologically illusion of moral rectitude from both the left and right. The center, which is the source of hope and trust upon which the nation resides, has been eroding. The center is eroding due in part to the commercialization of polarization, and in part by the individual private decision to opt- out of the political process all together.

People do not respond to change easily. Americans do not respond to change easily. We respond to crisis.

9/11 was one of the greatest missteps of leadership this country has ever faced. It demonstrated the institutional rotting that has taken place as the political process has become segmented and commercialized. It had become commercialized to the point where policy is just another commodity hawked on talk radio and blogged on the internet.

9/11 was a wakeup call. Policy has consequences. The American public was prepare and hungry to invited back into the process and make the sacrifices necessary to avenge the attack. Instead, we were asked to go about business as usual and keeping buying stuff. The leadership essentially told the American public to go home, it was not their fight. The government of the people, for the people, and by the people was hijacked by an ideologically bummed out, self appointed elite. That era, I pray, has ended.

I believe that the most important the issue and greatest challenge for the new generation coming into power is to address “the problem of power” head on. The goal for the 21st Century should be to restore “hope and trust” to the political process. This can only happen if …
“We the People of the United States”, commit, or recommit to the central purpose of this nation as spelled out in the Constitutional Preamble “… to form a more perfect Union.” And that our leaders and citizens renew their pledge to support the Constitution through their actions and deeds that

1. establish Justice,

2. insure domestic Tranquility,

3. provide for the common defence,

4. promote the general Welfare, and

5. secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,

These are the criteria, the first principles, upon which the Constitution rests. These are the criteria that all of our elected officials swear when they take their oath of office. And these are the criteria we as citizens, native born or naturalized, pledge to follow as we conduct our lives and judge our leads. This is how America and Americans should judge themselves and those who represent them. And these are the standards by which other nations judge and respect us. In recent times, their judgment has been harsh and their respect for us damaged.

We have faced crises in confidence before in our history and come through it. It has not been easy nor has it been without cost. But each time we have emerged stronger and better for the sacrifice. Maybe if we return to first principles, we can regain our self respect, their respect and our leadership role.

The time to start is now.

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