Spirituality for Today – May 2013 – Volume 17, Issue 10

Getting Along

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A white shirt lay limp upon the board. The distinctive click of the hot iron in my mother's skilled hands connects with it erasing any wrinkle on the material. Then, there is that amazing whoosh of steam emitting from the front of the iron as mom lifts it from the garment. I must have been four years old when I first watched her do the household chores, keeping a watchful eye on me, and listening to Ma Perkins on the radio. Home entertainment in those very, very early days of television was still dominated by radio. Families would sit around a radio set that was really a piece of furniture and listen to shows featuring news, music, comedy, drama, and soap operas. Don Ameche and Frances Langford starred in a comedy show about married life called The Bickersons. When I think of the political scene today, Congress and the White House would make perfect stars of the show.

A photo of a Don Ameche and Frances LangfordDon Ameche and Frances Langford

Political bickering has been called by some simply to be democracy itself. Perhaps, but when unyielding ideologies define political life, stagnation in Washington and discontent among the populace sets in. Where did our current political stalemate originate? In his article, A Manifesto at 50, Wlison Quarterly contributing editor and editorial board member at Newsday, Daniel Ansk offers an answer. The 1960s had arrived and the topic of social change was in vogue. A group of young activists gathered at location near Lake Huron. They called themselves Students for a Democratic Society and they created a manifesto called The Port Huron Statement. This New Left looked to government to be the savior of society's ills which included issues related to economic inequality, civil rights, corporate greed, and the military/industrial complex. In opposition, conservative spokesman, William F. Buckley, Jr. and a large number of colleagues met at his estate in Sharon, Connecticut producing the right leaning document called The Sharon Statement. The Statement favored less government and people should be allowed to take personal responsibility for their well-being. The character of society has changed since then, but, as Ansk states, "What's nearly universal instead is a never-ending effort to balance the rights of individuals with the needs that, in the modern world, it seems only government can meet. If the Port Huron Statement was absurd to suppose that collective action can solve all the world's problems, surely it was just as silly for the Sharon Statement to suggest that collective action can't solve any of them…"

The work of politics is to engage in setting the moral standards of society by addressing the requirements of what is known as the common good. In a pluralistic society, defining the philosophical context as well as the factual legislation of that common good creates an atmosphere among legislators, religious, and civic leaders of… well, bickering. The concern is that there is an authentic sense of "goodness" in the common good. In this voters mind, goodness is found in the Judeo/Christian values infused in the consciences and credos of our earliest citizens. I lament the current state of values, if you wish to call them that, visible in today's movers and shakers. Freedom is in want of a definition not alike to chaos but a responsible, and emblematic of virtue. Liberty, as Jefferson stated, demands constant vigilance. Another Founding Father, John Adams, opined that liberty cannot yield to slavery as long as moral values and education remain widespread among the citizenry. We must remember that the political train is being driven and maintained by those most enigmatic creatures of all – human beings. It is disconcerting to face the fact that so many of the authors of our documents of freedom and equality were slave owners and that the religious freedom contained in these instruments hiccupped somewhat when it came to practices of anti-Catholicism. Nevertheless, the hope is that the voice of every citizen can be heard in the debate and, yes, the bickering that characterizes democracy.