Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Surviving in a divided country

The United States is a divided country. Toss out any issue and Americans will split pretty much 50/50 on it. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. The age old favorites, Coke vs. Pepsi, Ford vs. Chevy, just led to more choices without causing any harm. But when it comes to politics we are locked into an two party, either/or, situation that is harming us all. To survive our government is going to need some fundamental changes.

Winner takes all means we all loose.

Most elections in recent years have been very close. Trump lost the popular vote and still became president. Does that give him a mandate to run rampant on our government institutions the way he has? Of course not. Republicans slim majority in the Senate. Do they really think this means all the American people support what they are doing? Of course not. It means maybe half of the people support what they are doing. And when you factor in the margins by which each candidate won, and the percentage of people who voted in each election, their slim majority really represents maybe 30% of Americans at best.  So no one has a mandate. If the party in power by the slimmest of margins pushes through their most extreme agenda they are going against the will of the majority of Americans.

Recent events bare this out. Polls were very clear that the majority of Americans do not support Trumps's Muslim ban, the Republican tax plan, the FCC repeal of Net Neutrality,  or the leasing of public lands for oil and coal extraction. Yet Trump and Republicans moved ahead with these things anyhow.

Intransigent leadership means we all loose.

When President Obama took office he realized that even though he won the popular election by an overwhelming margin, and his party controlled both houses of congress, in order to move forward in a meaningful way would require compromise. He reached out across party lines and tried to find common ground, but Republicans wanted no part of it. They stood firm and stubbornly blocked everything they could. Then when they had full control in 2016 their first move in the Senate was to change the rules and approve a Supreme Court nominee with a simple majority. Surely no one can see this as the will of the people.

Party lines mean we all loose.

When any decision is made along party lines it should automatically be invalidated. If the two parties cannot reach an agreement on something it certainly does not represent the will of the people. Once again at best it represents the minority Americans it took to win the slim margin in congress. Ignoring for the moment that our representatives care more about the will of their campaign donors and powerful lobbyists, they cannot pretend to represent the will of the people if they are not willing to compromise and work with the other party.

The swinging pendulum means we keep going backwards.

Eight years of Clinton, eight years of Bush, eight years of Obama, and now Trump. See a pattern here? The fact that we want to give the other party a chance each time is a good thing. That fact that each new administration immediately attempts to reverse everything done by the previous administration is not. Indeed Trump seems to base every decision on whether or not he can undo something Obama did. One step forward and two steps back is eventually going to lead us back to the dark ages.

United we stand, divided we fall.

We stand at a precipice. The United States of America has fallen from grace and may soon go the way of the Roman Empire and the Soviet Union. Outside of politics people are able to put aside their differences and work together everyday. If we can do this in our daily lives shouldn't we expect it of our elected officials? There is a strong argument to be made that the structure of our democracy is fatally flawed and significant structural change must be made if we are to survive. While I agree that things like the electoral college and two party system are broken and need to be changed, this alone is not going to fix the problem. Our democracy survived many generations with these institutions and managed to succeed because our elected officials understood the importance of putting personal gain and ideologies aside and working together for the good of all. This is what has been totally lost and this is what we must regain if we are going to survive. The question remains are there any leaders among us who can rise to this challenge?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Jerusalem IS the capitol of Israel

Jerusalem is certainly the capitol of Israel, and should be recognized as such by the world. Israel itself however must change. It cannot survive as a "Jewish state". A homeland for Jews, certainly and a place that can celebrate it's many sacred and historical sites which are important to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike. But the government needs adopt separation of church and state and recognize Jews, Arabs, and Palestinians as equal citizens.

Before I get branded as anti-Israel let me say that I have always felt a deep connection with Israel. As a Jew I've always felt proud that out of the ashes of WWII a bunch of refugees were able to build such a strong, modern, and thriving society. I was born the same year Israel became a nation, and although I have never been there, have always felt like our lives are intertwined. So please read what I write here with that in mind.

I've never been a fan of the so-called two state solution. That would just leave two tiny nations with limited resources constantly at war with each other. Even if political peace could ever be established there would always be enmity between them. I'm always of the mind that we are stronger together. In the case of Israel, even if you ignore the Palestinians, Jews will eventually become the minority as the Israeli Arab population is growing at a faster rate. A number of people have said that Israel can continue as a Jewish state, or a democracy, but not both. They must also realize that a Jewish state that is not a democracy will not survive. The wonderful spirit that opened its heart and homes to Jews from all over the world would wither and die, and without it the nation would soon perish.

In a way this strongly parallels the situation here in the US. America became great by welcoming  downtrodden from Europe and beyond. Once you got here you were "one of us now". We grew and prospered from the hard work and dreams of those who came seeking a better life. Same for Israel. Jew who lost their homes in Europe after WWII, who fled communism in the decades after, and even from exotic places like Ethiopia, flocked to Israel and were welcomed. Together they built a great nation.

Yes Israel has had to remain strong and resolute considering it's neighbors who are committed to it's destruction. But while they are able to defend themselves militarily, they are still loosing the battle for hearts and minds, and are becoming more and more isolated on the world stage. All attempts to make the people more secure are ultimately making them less safe as the Palestinians become more and more desperate. It's time for a change and a new direction.

Israel needs to be born again as a secular democracy, with borders that include both Gaza and the West Bank, with it's capitol in Jerusalem. It must immediately grant full citizenship to all of the Palestinians within these borders, and grant a right of return to Palestinians who have fled to other countries. The reborn nation will need a new constitution that grants equal citizenship to all residents, but includes protections to preserve Israel as a homeland for Jews. These protections must prepare for the near future when Jews are a minority. Jews must always feel secure within their homeland, while at the same time reparations need to be made to the Palestinians who have lost so much over so many years. I believe this can be done. All it really takes is good will. In fact if the governments were to just get out of the way, the people would do this on their own. Jerusalem can yet become the City of Peace, and the capitol of a thriving nation that recognizes the rights of all it's citizens to live, love, worship, honor their traditions, and celebrate their unique history and vast contributions to the rest of the world.