Sunday, November 2, 2008

Peaceniks Forum: The Election that Changes Everything that Ever Was

Perhaps that's a bit of an overstatement, but that seems to be the way most Americans are acting right now. So let's have a bit of discussion. What matters to you this time around? Why is this election so important? If you're one of our growing contingent of international visitors, what outcomes do you want to see from the U.S. election? Will anything good come of it for you?

Here at Practical Peaceniks, we've already weighed in on how we think McCain or Obama will promote peace in the world (or not). We've also touched on how some of the rhetoric surrounding the campaign has caused people like us who are dedicated to peace and social justice to cringe/want to spit venom. As virtually anyone has noticed by now, the campaign has only gotten more heated, especially as one side pulls ahead while the other seems to be spiraling downward. Is this a positive trend? Further, is a campaign process that has taken nearly two years and cost two billion dollars really good for this country, or any country?

For my own sake, I want to see a government for the people that brings an end to the degradation of civil liberties and demonstrates a renewed emphasis on expanding civil rights to all individuals in the United States (I use that construction intentionally). I want a government of the people that takes to heart the advice of Nobel Laureate, former Secretary of State, and fellow Tennesseean Cordell Hull, who said in 1945, "There is no greater responsibility resting upon peoples and governments everywhere than to make sure that enduring peace will this time -- at long last -- be established and maintained." Finally, I want to see a government by the people, that does not engage in unjust wars (with victims at home and abroad) and refuses to compromise our core values by torturing and illegally detaining individuals suspected of acting against us.

This election is important to me because I feel strongly that the country has been on a downward spiral. It's not just a matter of U.S. standing or influence in the world -- I don't really care about that. It's that within our own borders, we are a society that has lost the ability to value anything other than ourselves and our material wants. Too many Americans lack healthcare. Our schools need support, investment, and love. Our economy needs to be reconstructed so that injustices meted out by the privileged few don't get perpetuated when those same privileged few get bailed out while their victims get nothing. And looking abroad, this is a nation of remarkable power, and we should truly scrutinize whether we are using that power -- hard, soft, or whatever you want to call it -- in a responsible, compassionate way that still somehow manages to further our interests and keep us safe.

As for the electoral process, I tend to agree that it was wrong for Obama to break his promise to accept public financing in the general election. However, in so doing, he may well have uncovered a new approach to public financing. Having over 3 million donors and an average donation of just $85 may indicate that public interest in financing campaigns is growing, and we just need to rethink how the current public finance process works. The time this whole soiree has taken, though, is ludicrous. I've frankly stopped paying attention to the news for much of the past month simply because I was tired of it all. When the campaign process drags on for so long, we lose sight of issues and instead start deconstructing every syllable that comes out of someone's mouth. The 24-hour news cycle only exacerbates this problem. And only having two major candidates hurts too, I think. Maybe the Barr, McKinney and Nader campaigns have something to offer the country. If they do, we certainly haven't had a chance to hear about it. If they don't, we haven't even heard that either.

Consider this the opening salvo (definitely not a peaceful term) of your Practical Peaceniks election coverage this week. As always, we welcome your thoughts, and encourage you to join the conversation.