James Beard: The responsibilities of power
The recent events in Egypt have caused me to reflect on a number of issues related to politics in general. Much of the issue that brought down Mohamed Morsi was related to his treatment of minorities. There is little doubt that he was democratically elected in an election that has not been seriously challenged as unfair or fraudulent. They held an election, Morsi ran, and the majority of the people chose him.
The problem was not related to how he treated those who elected him but to how he treated the large minority of citizens who were opposed to his policies. When the dissatisfaction became sufficiently intense, people took to the streets and overthrew him.
This disrespect for the rights and views of minorities (or sometimes the majority) has become epidemic around the world. Similar things happen in places like Turkey, Russia, and Syria. In Syria the results have been devastating. What is most alarming to me is the manner in which this disregard for the minorities (i.e., the loser) is infecting this country.
In the United States minorities do have some protection under the Constitution. Congress and the individual states cannot pass any laws they wish if they infringe on the rights of a minority. But we seem to be of a mood to push the “we are right and rest of you be damned” mentality as far as possible.
I am not sure when all of this started. It certainly has been going on for the last 20 years and perhaps longer. The story seems to be that winning and having control of the process is all that matters.
I do not want to suggest that this attitude has never occurred before in American politics because it has existed from time to time. At one point we fought a civil war over our inability to find a peaceable way to resolve our differences.
What seems to drive the current state of affairs is the belief on the part of many people that on a number of issues they have the absolute infallible truth. The view is that because they know the truth, they have the right or perhaps the obligation to insist that their way must be followed. What this has done to this nation and this state is to destroy the ideal of compromise because, if one has the absolute assured truth on any matter, then it is his/her obligation to make it happen.
On the national stage this inability to compromise has basically shut the government down in terms of meaningful legislative work. When the Founding Fathers developed the Constitution, they set up a government where compromise was expected. They feared the concentration of too much power in the hands of one group, so they set up checks and balances to force different groups to work together. Some of those currently in Congress did not get the message.
The effect on the state of North Carolina has been quite different. In the last election the control of the state by the Republican Party became complete with the election of Pat McCrory as governor. What we have seen during this legislative session is the unleashing of the ideological positions which suggest that if you are not willing to sign on to their view of the culture and society in North Carolina, then you are basically irrelevant.
The ideology of those who control the current legislature seems to be based on the black and white, good versus evil mentality where those who disagree with them are part of the dark side and need to be stopped at all costs. Those on the dark side seem to be the poor, the unemployed, the black community, women, environmentalists, educators, anyone who thinks businesses should be regulated, and those who think that voting is a right no matter what card you happen to carry in your pocket.
Most of these minorities have been left with few options to deal with their frustrations other than to protest. It is sad that many people in this state feel so disenfranchised that weekly marches to Raleigh are the only way they can make their feelings known so that they do not feel like complete victims. Not that anyone in power in Raleigh is likely to be listening.
Somehow we have ended up in a very angry environment. Some groups have not gotten their way in the past about certain things and have decided that it is everyone else’s fault. They have managed to convince many other people that there is a conspiracy afoot by the liberals, the moderates, and anyone else who is not like them to deprive them of their religion, their culture, their family values and anything else that they hold dear.
People from all political persuasions are actually more alike than they are different. Let me speak as a lifelong liberal. Most of the liberals I know are patriotic, love their country, love their families, care about their state, their counties, their cities, and love God with all of their heart, soul and mind. So, let us come together to find common ground not as enemies, but as the human beings that God created and loves.
James Beard lives in the Salisbury area.