Why can’t we have both? | Ott Observations

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On my most pessimistic days, it can seem like our country is torn apart by irreconcilable differences.  

If our government wants to make sure a drug is affordable to all who need it, half of us criticize this as socialized medicine. If our state wants to set a public health standard to fight a pandemic, half of us see this as an affront to our individual liberty. If someone wants to use a former assisted living building as a drug rehab center, some of us see this as the decline of the neighborhood.

Most days, I’m an optimist. I think we can rise to a higher standard of expectations. I’m tired of choosing the lesser of two evils.  What can’t we have both?  

For example, why can’t we support a free market that encourages competition AND make sure that competition is fair? Why can’t we support capitalism AND protect consumers from fraud and corruption?  Why can’t we have a strong economy AND make sure everyone who wants to work has a job that provides a sustainable income?

Why can’t we support our police AND hold them to the highest standard of fair treatment to all and judicious use of deadly force?  Why can’t we protect protesters that are exercising their rights AND prosecute rioters?

Why can’t we protect our borders from terrorists and criminals AND let people in who see the United States as that one place in the world they can have a safe and better life? 

This is what our forefathers did. One of our original colonies, Georgia, was founded on the ideal that people in England’s debtor prisons could be given the chance to make a living in the New World and become productive citizens.

Why can’t we support individual rights AND protect others being abused by the exercise of those rights?  Why can’t we preserve our right to bear arms AND ensure that only citizens in good standing get to exercise that right – and insist they do so responsibly or bear the consequences?

Why can’t we produce the energy we need AND keep pushing to do so with less damage to our environment? With our vast collective intelligence, a will to help others and rapidly advancing technology, why can’t we feed and house everyone and provide them healthcare? These are basic human rights that shouldn’t be subject to how successful you are in a capitalistic economy.

Why can’t we hold our world allies responsible for their fair share of international defense AND keep their good will?  Why should we ever have to stand against evil alone when there are so many potential allies that share our national values?

I absolutely believe ALL Americans are bonded by the same values. President Abraham Lincoln spoke to this in his first inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln made this speech after seven states had seceded from the Union before he even took office. 

Today, we are facing another civil war. Who has started it? It is the many elected leaders who are manufacturing grievances and turning us against each other in their pursuit of power. Gone are two political parties that used to have differing but respectable ideologies about the role of government. Instead, we have morally bankrupt individuals groveling for votes by appealing to the worst satanic angels of our nature.

We don’t have to put up with this and we should expect much more. I do not believe everyone running for office is corrupt and evil. I believe there are people who truly want to be public servants. Let’s elect them. 

How do we do that? Let’s reject the label of Republican or Democrat.  Let’s listen to what candidates are saying and the depth of their views. Let’s listen for those who think they can make the world better for a greater number of people. And let’s vote for the least divisive candidate that aspires to a greater good.

We can raise our standard of government if we raise our expectations and vote accordingly.   

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