Published: Apr 12, 2012 06:17 PM
Modified: Apr 12, 2012 06:18 PM
I am one of the millions of Americans who has no interest in my neighbors’ religion. I care that they obey the law and rake their leaves. I am grateful that they welcomed me into the neighborhood with brownies and have no idea what choices they make for themselves regarding the private issues of faith, abortion, marriage, love.
And I don’t think I’m alone.
What’s more, I want to have political candidates to choose from who feel the same. I don’t want their political platform to be issues of religion and sexuality. I want them to be ethical, law-abiding, learned women and men with enough strength and leadership ability to stand up to the special interests and far left or far right factions of their parties. I want them to be leaders who will stand up to those oh-so-organized factions who want to distract us from the terribly important issues facing our nation today. I want leaders interested in the successful governance of our cities, states and country – not in blurring the lines set firmly by our founding fathers between church and state.
We need only take a look at history (and not ancient history either) to see where such factions have led entire nations in the past, groups whose own bigotries and extremist views have been so exclusive that the average, moderate citizen is seen as an outlaw. Hitler, Pol Pot, Czechou, Mussolini and Mao come quickly to mind. Each of these “elected” officials led their nations to eliminate the “others” in their society by convincing themselves, the populace and the powerful among them that they were a threat to “their” way of life and by the wielding of might. These men shared a mindset that dictated their policies (and preserved their personal power). This mindset was that their nations must be singular in religion, ethnicity, policy, education and party. There was no room for dissidents. Dissidents were eliminated from their societies, cut from them by force.
And the dissidents were the majority of their societies. They were the moderates, the reasonable, the average Joes interested in law and work and family and tolerance. The citizenry of their nations.Founding fathers
There is a reason our founding fathers developed a system of governance that insisted on a separation of church and state. A very good reason. You cannot, must not, presume to dictate the faith of your citizens if you are going to be a pluralistic nation.
And yet, the conservative far right of America have become so active, organized and powerful (because moderates are moderate in every way) that they are dictating the very private issues, beliefs and values of every candidate and ignoring the pursuit of real qualification. And calling it American. It is out of the realm of possibility for a Jewish American, or a Buddhist American or an agnostic American to be elected to a national office today. But even more stunning, is that a moderate Christian finds it almost as difficult – you see, it’s not even enough to be Christian. You must be a certain kind of Christian. And you’d better be prepared to prove it.
There was a time in this country when I could believe in a strong defense AND care about the civil rights of ALL Americans, even the gay ones, even the non-white. And I’m just radical enough to want less government, and still care about the plight of our impoverished. The extremists among us use every emotional ploy in the book – their tactics are to try to make us feel un-American, un-faithful, and immoral if our faith, our values and our morals differ in any way from theirs.
I am calling for a rising up of the moderates. I suggest that we take back our country from the extremists, left AND right. Let us look for leadership, education, experience, decency and ABILITY in our elected officials. Let us require them to be representative of our entire populace, not special interest factions. Let us insist that they be law-abiding, ethical women and men. And let us also insist that they keep their private lives private and that they let their personal morals dictate only their personal choices. And while I’m at it, I think it would be wise to look at our most recent national history and remember that three years ago we the people insisted that our newly elected officials, presidential and Congressional, do SOMETHING to bail out this nation’s economic mess – an economic mess that was at a minimum 20 years in the making, not one that started three years ago with the election of a new president. Let us look for leaders who can govern this nation to economic and international success, not for professional politicians who are pleasing to the eye and camera. Let us moderates refuse to be led around by the noses by the extremists in our society any longer. Let’s demand candidates who can form a sentence and a policy, and one who knows her or his weaknesses and is willing to select a team which will make up for personal deficits of experience. These are many of the reasons that Americans elected Barack Obama. We will never agree with every decision a leader makes, but by God, I want to know that an elected official is making his or her own decisions based on their education, ethics, reason and conscience, not based on a fear of or a desire to appease the most organized, extremists among us.
And please, please, please VOTE. And refuse to be a part of the minority of our state eager to amend our constitution to include their own personal bigotries and bias.
Susan Cassidy lives in Chapel Hill and is the former editor of NW Asian Weekly in Seattle, Wash.