O beautiful for spacious skies

The last time the nation was in this mood, the Graef family moved to Africa and voted absentee until the bickering cooled down. Marysville’s school levies hadn’t passed for years. The economy was suffering the recession of 1973-1975. The only thing that was thriving was a generalized grumpiness in water-cooler chat. The high school was reduced to holding a few classes in an unused locker room and school buses. All because a misbegotten war caused deep cuts in funding for domestic programs.

Being more involved now, we’re sticking it out to do what we can to help reverse joblessness, homelessness and shuttered stores and factories. The goal is to restore the vision we sing of in America the Beautiful, “. . . alabaster cities glow undimmed by human tears.” Other verses of the song give reason to reflect further on the state of the nation.

For example, investors looking for a promising Vanguard fund find the best loaded with financials, info-tech and energy stocks. Nothing in industry — the sector that hires people to make things. To find job-creating stocks one has to buy into a global fund that invests in Korea, Brazil, Indonesia and India. You won’t find the corporations that pocketed short-term profits by outsourcing jobs singing, “O beautiful for patriot dreams that see beyond the years.”

Teachers of U.S. Government and Civics classes find themselves telling kids, “That’s the way things should be but it’s not how the federal government works these days.” While putting the business of the nation on hold, Republicans openly plot the downfall of our President. Democrats’ internal squabbling robs them of any ability to effect reforms. Where can we find statesmen who work “. . . till paths be wrought through wilds of thought.”

Travelers and diplomats find themselves at loss to explain what’s happening in the capitol of the Land of the Free. While troops and NGOs struggle to set up fledgling governments overseas, they face criticism for representing a government that can’t even govern itself.

Even Marysville churches have entered the fray by preaching conservative or liberal lines. Advocates for the so-called Success Gospel that claims God intended his faithful to be wealthy, help to justify greed. Other Christians that believe in biblical prophesy rub our noses in Revelation 18:1-8 and say, “Don’t tell us you weren’t warned!”

Consumers of radio and TV blather are coached to distrust President Obama because of distortions spread by senators and representatives beholden to industries that fund their campaigns. If there is one person who stands above the smarmy business of influence-peddling, it is our President. Find another person in Washington who turned down huge salary offers for the grunt-work he took on as a community organizer.

Until the long arm of corporate influence is extracted from Congress and the Supreme Court, nothing will to improve. So long as senators’ and representatives’ elections are funded by interests that want nothing more than to control votes, nothing will change. So long as elected officials see politics as a career route to a cushy retirement, it will be business as usual. As long as vested interests are able to influence and, in some cases, draft legislation, nothing will change. Our Capitol is not the place to hear, “America, America, God shed his grace on thee, till selfish gain no longer stain, the banner of the free.”

Nothing will happen when a Supreme Court votes (5-4) to give corporations unlimited campaign funding rights. The Court defied reason in judging that a corporation’s “person-hood” would be violated by limiting its right to influence elections. “America, America, God mend thy every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.”

With elected officials having lost their moral compasses it is no wonder things are going to hell on a handcart. To the degree that public officials’ ethics bow to The Powers that Be, they come to fit the definition of prostitute: “One who sells the services of one’s self … for low or unworthy purposes.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary).

One thing is very nearly certain. I say very nearly because nothing is ever certain in the Capitol: This White House is not on the take but Congress is. For those who allow themselves to be bought, their reward is deferred until they leave government. Smoking-gun proof lies in that 43% of 198 elected people who left government positions since 1998 returned as highly-paid lobbyists, not to displace professional arm-twisters but as payback for services rendered while in office.

The electorate understandably feels that their votes are impotent to bring about change. President Obama campaigned on a platform of change but when he took office his leadership ran smack into a dearth of followership. The GOP’s chairman, Michael Steele actually published a book titled, A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda. Where did the needs of the nation fit into that? Over most of our history the Dems governed when it was their turn, the GOP when it was theirs. Neither took on Steele’s absolute policy of torpedoing each initiative of the opposite party.

Washington is fortunate that the members of its federal delegation show a capacity to think (rightly or wrongly) as individuals. I hope others in Congress can reclaim independence and generosity of spirit so that they qualify to sing, “America, America, God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

Comments may be sent to: rgraef@verizonl.net

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