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July 4, 2011

Inter-dependence Day

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Let's be clear. This is not some socialist call for a new holiday to replace the birth of our great nation. We must maintain a celebration of the founding of our country, the brave and daring realization of the dream of patriots to break free of oppressive British rule and establish a democratic government of, by and for the people.


Until the last light of liberty is extinguished, American citizens should and must celebrate our independence. It is only through a constant retelling of that great story that future generations will be inspired to continue it.


Even today, the tales of the founding fathers, huddled in small rooms and taverns in Philadelphia, waging an intellectual war of words to frame our guiding documents, serves as a reminder of what is precious, and why we must remain vigilant.


This call for a new approach, a recognition and celebration of why we need each other, is actually born of the very spirit that guided the work of Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Adams, Madison and many others.


For the sake of discussion, how about Interdependence Day?


Surely you've heard the quality of our political discourse, both locally and across the nation. It is less a debate of ideas and opinions and more a cacophony of sound, each side doing its best to drown out the other. The aural assault seems non-stop, and the victims appear powerless to stop it.


In Frederick, it's the Hagen-ites versus the Young-sters. You're either all or you're nothing in this rhetorical battle. Every policy position taken by the Blaine Young-led Board of County Commissioners is represented as a victory for evil developers in the eyes of former Commissioner Kai Hagen and his followers. The insinuations are soft, but evident nonetheless. They'd have you believe there's something sinister, possibly criminal, in the Winchester Hall work product.


Mr. Hagen, on the other hand, is represented as a droning, monotonous bore, a do-nothing more concerned with his return to political prominence than the health and welfare of Frederick County.


Both assertions are equally absurd, and both deny the multi-dimensional and intellectual capacities of Mr. Hagen and Mr. Young. If either groups core supporters actually spent personal time communicating with the other group’s leader, they'd find Kai a deeply philosophical but engaging fellow, and Blaine has a true curiosity and yearning for how to make a government function to meet its citizens expectations.


At the state level, Gov. Martin O'Malley is portrayed by Republicans as a guitar-slinging poster boy, lacking an interest in the details of governing as much as he is aligning himself with a political promotion.


The O'Malley Administration describes Republicans leaders as heartless, out-of-touch with mainstream needs, and solely influenced by big business.


Sure, the governor plays the guitar. In fact, he's a very talented guitarist and singer. It's foolish to suggest he's not a details guy, though. This is the creator of CityStat and StateStat, statistical process control systems that measure and monitor the cost and quality of millions of dollars in services provided on a daily basis.


From a process standpoint, Martin O'Malley is much more connected with the details of governing than was his Republican predecessor.


Republican leaders in the General Assembly are as concerned about Marylanders living in poverty and crisis as their Democratic colleagues. In fact, a number of GOP House and Senate leaders have done more than many of their ideological opponents to actually address systemic problems instead of just talking about them.


And then we get to our federal elected officials.


President Barack Obama believes he has the solution to our structural deficit and long-term debt problem. Modest cuts in discretionary spending, limited controls on the growth of entitlements, major cuts in defense spending, and major increases in taxes for wealthy Americans.


Republican leaders in the House (where they hold the strings) and Senate (where they don't) are opposed to any discussion of tax increases. Come early August, we'll run out of money, since we'll lack funds to cover previous debt incurred because we couldn't:


·        Agree on spending cuts, or


·        Agree on tax increases.


No one is sure of the true economic impact if we fail to increase the debt ceiling. Most agree that whatever happens would potentially stall a weak recovery, and that alone seems reason enough to avoid it happening.


So, how do our federal political leaders handle this touchy subject? Here's how:


·        President Obama compares congressional Republicans to his daughters Sasha and Melia. He describes how his children can get their homework done on time, often before deadlines, while the GOP in Congress is unable to get their work done.


·        President Obama chides the Congress for their work schedule, saying things like "I'm here, where are they?" And "they should stay here until they get it done." Then he proceeds to board Air Force One and fly to Philadelphia for a campaign fundraiser, spending the evening bashing the GOP to an approving throng of fellow Democrats.


·        Senator Mitch McConnell (R., KY) announces on the floor of the Senate that any discussion about increasing revenue is "dead on arrival." Not merely a problem or complication, but DOA.


·        A number of conservative radio talk show hosts questions President Obama's loyalty to this nation and his oath of office.


·        Grover Nordquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform and keeper of the No Tax Pledge, tells Comedy Central comedian/faux newsman Stephan Colbert that if he had to choose between his grandmother's life and tax increase, "at least he has memories and photographs of Grandma."


·        Senator Charles Schumer (D., NY) is quoted saying "Republicans want to dismantle Social Security and take away Medicare."


Today, on this Independence Day, it would be great if for once, just this one fleeting moment in our long political history, our leaders, both elected and aspiring to be, could focus more energy on what unites us than what we disagree about.


Instead of hearing how Barack Obama's policies are un-American, celebrate how a second generation African American can be elected to lead the most powerful nation on earth.


Instead of President Obama employing dismissive hit-and-run rhetoric, how about a serious dialogue where everything is on the table, including Social Security?


Instead of hearing GOP grumbling about Governor O'Malley's recent business development trip to China, why not tout the $79 million in new contracts he co-signed while there?


Instead of hearing how Blaine Young is insensitive and unduly influenced by corporate interests, tell the story of how a young man is deeply committed to the promises he made while campaigning, and how he translates his desire to leave his sons a more economically stable county than he inherited.


If Republic-rats and Demo-gods could take a breather from the constant political posturing and demonizing that they've grown accustomed to and concentrate, even just for a day, on the common values and core principles we share as a people, it might be possible to work through some of the more complex issues that face our children and grandchildren.


So how about we celebrate our interdependence and, for once, stand together as Americans. We just might see the possible, and really begin to perfect our Union.


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