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April 1, 2010

Hawthorn Hill: Reflections

Several days ago the health care bill passed. I am glad that it did.

It is certainly not a perfect bill and there are aspects of it, especially such shenanigans as the ``Cornhusker Kickback,’’ that rankle. But anyone familiar with any political process, be it village or national politics, knows that in order to get anything done deals are made, compromises are forged, and lofty aspirations often fall prey to more modest, politically achievable results.

One of these days I hope we do find the moral fortitude as a nation to care enough about one another to create a system of universal health care for all.

There is a strange and troubling irony about our national penchant for starting wars in far away places knowing full well that thousands on both sides will die.

And that those who happen to survive such inexcusable barbarism will suffer in innumerable ways for the rest of their lives. What is it that makes it so easy for us to go to war, even begin them under false pretenses, and suggest that those of us who oppose such idiocies are somehow less patriotic because we see no earthly, or spiritual, justification for such self-destructive escapades in the first place. There is just something downright puzzling about the way in which we set national priorities. Frankly, I do not care a whit which political party anyone belongs to. I wish we could do away with them.

Madison warned us about factionalism a long time ago and his fears have come home to roost. People are so dug into their factional foxholes these days that civil discussion is nigh impossible.

I need not review the ugliness that certain partisans have exhibited publicly the past several weeks.

It is not surprising, really, since anyone whose head is not buried in the sand knows that ugliness, most often nurtured by fear and ignorance, is alive and well throughout this land. Unfortunately, we share this pathology with the rest of the world. I wish I was optimistic about its eradication. The extent to which we live in fear of terrorist attacks is a testament to the heightened levels of insanity that hatred has evolved to.

The operative credo is simple: to get your way, or at least make your point, kill as many innocent people as you like. Then have the audacity to attribute your actions to your personal deity.

The same mentality seems to pervade politics. If you do not agree with someone, then do the honorable thing: vilify him. If you do not believe that government should involve itself in health care, then call those that do communists, socialists or, even worse, Hitlerites. If you believe that government does have a role, then castigating all those who disagree as cold-hearted, uncaring, and greedy seems to suffice.

Even though I hold some relatively liberal views, I also think of myself as equally conservative with respect to certain issues. I guess what matters is how you define your terms. It used to be that our legislators would debate by day, often disagreeing vehemently, but come nightfall they would dine together and often go on family weekend trips together.

We have lost some fine people from both sides of the aisle because politics has become more personal than ever. Mean-spirited divisiveness has replaced civil dissent, a necessary cornerstone of any democracy.

The abortion debate brings out the worst in us.

If you believe that a woman has the right to make her own reproductive decisions, including the termination of a pregnancy, then you are characterized as a ``baby killer.’’ If, on the other hand, you characterize yourself as being ``pro-life,’’ a rather ambiguous phrase at best, the tendency is to claim the moral high ground as yours alone. The implication, then, is that those who see things differently are spiritually bankrupt. Of course, any rift rooted in theological conflict is ideologically irresolvable. And the beat goes on.

My antidote to all this is to take a very long walk.