Dr. Walter Greason
Norristown Times Herald
17 September 2014
Memory is a tricky thing. In an era where every news cycle is filled with meaningless detail, the process of remembering holds a special importance. In 2001, an unqualified neophyte in the Oval Office allowed the worst terrorist strike in American history, crippling the most important city in the world and providing incentives for violence to countless generations of isolated malcontents going forward. Worse, President Bush manipulated the fear and shock of the American public in the aftermath into misguided military efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq, while Osama bin Laden escaped into hiding in Pakistan. When a still-bruised electorate returned him to office in 2004, his administration nearly drowned another American city in an unparalleled display of ineptitude that drew comparisons to the federal executives who created the conditions for the Civil War. For a society that defines democracy for the rest of the world, the first decade of the twenty-first century was a demonstration about the importance of engaged, intelligent leadership. Without it, global civilization deteriorates, while tyranny grows.
Since 2009, the American people have chosen to endorse a smarter balance of foreign policy and economic development. As a result, Al Qaeda has been decimated, Russia’s weakness on the international stage has been exposed, and Iran and North Korea now face greater sanctions from the international community than they have at any point in the last century. Even as new threats like ISIL grow more desperate, new, responsible, regional coalitions take root to make the promise of the Arab Spring more than a retrenchment of Islamic fundamentalism across Africa and Asia. American leadership in the world is no longer exceptional. The long promise of open societies in Europe, the Americas, India, and many parts of the developing world has never been more real. Challenges remain to include all people in digital prosperity more equally, but the path to that destination avoids old claims to empire and traditional politics of segregation.
Perhaps the most important changes are taking hold in the small towns and rural communities across the United States. Where the Iowa Democratic caucuses led in 2008, millions of middle class households have followed over the last six years. No longer is the rallying cry “E pluribus unum” – from many, one. Instead, tolerance has become insufficient to the task of equal justice for all people. At even the most conservative rural churches, acceptance of different lifestyles and backgrounds has become normal. Multicultural families hold the greatest promise to unite a nation whose civil divides have continually threatened millions of lives since 1870 with deviations from the intent of Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. No moment will indicate if the United States is ready to begin the work of a new century than the election results coming this November. If the Congress and state legislatures can abandon the destructive ideologies of states’ rights and limited government in favor of traditions of transparent governance, responsible jurisprudence, and a shared commitment to diplomacy articulated by visionaries like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Winona LaDuke, then a step towards universal human rights will occur.
President Obama began his time in office with the promise to seek compromise and build a functional coalition in Washington, D.C. His overtures were met with scorn, derision, and constant opposition to every suggestion he has advanced. Rearguard reactionaries like Mitch McConnell, Mike Fitzpatrick, and Mike Vereb do not represent the goals and agendas of the American people generally nor Pennsylvanians specifically. In less than sixty days, Pennsylvania will have a decisive voice in moving the world forward in the twenty-first century or restoring the failed policies of limited government from the nineteenth. The 2014 elections are a referendum on the kinds of legislatures people want – ones modeled on the incompetence of George W. Bush or ones based on the patience of Barack Obama.
Dr. Walter Greason established the International Center for Metropolitan Growth and is the author of Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey. His work is available on Facebook, Twitter (@worldprofessor1/@icmgrowth), LinkedIn, and by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).