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Find the golden mean

With newly-elected officials set to take office after the year turns, it is interesting to read, watch and listen to the flak from the faithful — those thrilled, those distressed.

With the 24-hour news cycle requiring filler, commentary and opinion rules the day. In between coverage of car chases and reports of forest fires (odd how little we see of war and the day-to-day trials faced by those in our military). We are exposed to pundits, to partisan letter writers, to “news” that floods the cable and radio shows.

From where we stand, it appears little has changed. True, there will be a major change in party representation at the federal level and in many states, but the song seems the same from both ends of the political spectrum.

Unfortunately, the extremes receive the attention; after all, that is where the hottest, biggest winds are born. And it is the loudest, most garish and often least factual opinion that provides the entertainment the “news” requires. If you are going to be led around by the nose, let the ring be large, and let it be gold.

Strip away the window dressing, though, and what we have is a contest of ideas. Not terribly grand ideas, mind you, but ideas that motivate masses of people and advance the interests of the sources of those ideas via the ballot.

The central ideas in our current political discourse are easy to recognize. One asserts that you have lost something you once possessed, and the aim of political action is to return it to you. The other is that you never possessed these things of value, and the aim of political action is to see you receive a share of it. Call the ideas conservative and progressive if you will, but the notions are deeply embedded — here and elsewhere, now and in the past.

On one side we have a mass of people convinced they need to “take back” something they have lost: income, freedom, privilege, their country. The fact most of them never had the freedom they imagine, never accrued significant wealth, never did much more than serve the interests of a privileged elite, doesn’t matter. The idea rings true.

At the other extreme are those who believe too many have been denied freedom, income, privilege, a place in the process, and that the basics must be redistributed. The fact many advocates of this position have not themselves been denied, and many of those who are the intended recipients of redistributed wealth, services and privilege are doing nothing to deserve it, does not seem to matter. The idea rings true.

The problem: As long as the center ring of the circus encircles only these two core ideas, as long as the process continues to bring profit to the empowered elites who prompt these ideas, nothing will change.

We have created a welfare society and the expenses are growing beyond what we can manage. We have undone systems and regulations that kept the rapacious among us somewhat in check and we have paid the price while they continue to reap the bonuses. We’ve allowed the mouthpieces at the extremes to hoodwink us, lead us deeper into windowless partisan rooms. And while we thrash about in those rooms, hurling epithets and spouting dogma, someone is selling the house, banking the cash; someone remains in power and many, if not most meaningful ideas are cast aside as our increasing debts and obligations are laid off for future generations to bear.

The answer? The middle way, the route that exists between the notions of regaining something lost and the notion of distributing things never possessed.

The song will not change until we find the golden mean and demand our elected leaders use it as their guide.

Karl Isberg