Has it always been the case in America? Are the Federalist Papers a foundation debate worth re-reading in this contemporary time? Or are the Federalist Papers a cracked foundation stone, a smoldering ember, and an antique cracked mirror from which we can see our diverse reflected fragmented selves today? We have our Constitution, but I often crack the Federalist Papers to remind myself that “E Pluribus Unum” is, along with the Constitution, a goal and not always a reality.
Missing from recent columns from hopeful politicians in this blog are ideas. Heavily-mentioned ideas center on balance sheets. The politicians sound like economists and accountants. Perhaps it’s what the country needs today; better management and accounting, astute economic sense. After all, with our best effort, we can only articulate the central challenge facing our nation with the e-word – the economy.
How we balance our sheets depends a great deal upon ideas. I sense that America has lost a hefty chunk of its soul in this regard. We’ve perpetuated the American tradition of divisiveness that began at Concord Bridge. We’ve polished our loyal team spirits. Chosen our colors and established effective color lines, borders and gated communities. We enjoy taking a great deal of issues to court. We love the rule of law and even love the reality television versions. No claim is too small. Our lawyers have graduated in stature, becoming architects, engineers, and technology designers. Our sophisticated tax code is too large to comprehend, and too thick to fail.
You may sense a few serious American cracks as well. You may be quick with your political/economic party label gun which sits next to your loaded firearm and flat-screen remote(s). They give a strange but real comfort. You may feel discomfort at the word divisive, or it may make you enthused to feel that itch for a fight. You may believe that consensus is just another word for a C-average.
The cracks, the divisions in our Union are not new. We were never united. America’s still working on that. The struggle between States and the Federal Government consists of tensions never relaxed over time; in fact the tensions stretched and snapped 150 years ago.
Individually, we have the opportunity to make our own mind within the boundaries of the law to make a life here. There exist very real economic boundaries to many people based upon their point of view, their bank balance, training and education, and talents.
Collectively, we’re becoming a larger collective than our capacity for collective governance. The Federal Government, all three branches and their subsidiary departments, is our nation’s largest employer. It takes a great deal of resources to resource the resource we expect to publicly serve and protect, to steward and sustain. In the Federalist Papers, amid all the ideas and opinions, I read much about the business of governing and government. Within the 85 essays are many points of view.
I believe it helpful to be mindful of the cracks and the divisions. I think boundaries and borders deserve marking. Labels are valid in that we use them freely. Choices are many. Balance sheets are complicated with numerous cells, fields, rows, and multiple tables. In fact, what worries me about most politicians is that they don’t realize that the balance sheets to which they refer are actually sophisticated relational and international databases. We may not like that reality of “relational”. But I think that in order to build relations, beginning with the individual, it helps to see the cracks that deserve connecting.