That particularly American and seemingly intractable conflict between liberties and rights – a zero sum game with one directly proportional to the other – needs to be set aside. In a shrinking world where others are gaining on us at an alarming rate, we need to recognize that what we have, what the founders gave us, far outweighs anything we are squabbling about.
Modern politics resembles less the nostalgic concoctions of yesteryear and more a trip down the rabbit hole. The overarching black-and-whites are clearly defined (evil, tyrannical, guillotining Queen of Hearts: bad. Benevolent and beautiful, slightly quirky, solidly moral White Queen: good). But the details that compose the reality of laws and policies are always changing. Or they’re never what they seem. Or both.
The ideal political state of affairs in America is indefinable and enigmatic. Yet everybody seems to think they know exactly what’s going on, whether they assert that the Public Option is necessary, or that ethnic profiling is okay in Arizona, or that the roses must be red. How many political decisions are reached by misconstruing a basic democratic tenet? Making broad generalizations about “what’s best” drives most sane people to do crazy things. And in the middle of it all is Alice – the increasingly youthful and ever more confused American Public, attempting to figure out what the hell is going on, and trying desperately to keep from losing her head.
We’ve got Tweedledee and Tweedledum, born of the same mother but always ready to pick a fight, bearing a striking resemblance to Democrats and the GOP. The polarization of modern party politics seems to stem from a heretical interpretation of the original bi-partisanship, and an eager readiness on both sides to argue at every possible moment. But how much of the information spouted by party mouthpieces is aimed at actually reaching the best possible outcome for all American citizens, and not just provoking and prolonging this sibling rivalry? It doesn’t help that the rapid globalization and the ever watchful eyes of the internet are making the world smaller and smaller and dangerously misinterpreted, triggering a domestic xenophobia of outrageous proportions. Coastal metropolitans eye the South and the Midwest as strange and slow. The breadbasket, unaccustomed to the exposure that is so easily navigated by the denizens of New York and LA, warily resists the quickening cadence of change. Socioeconomic history has predetermined those roles, but where did all the distrust come from? Nationwide, we all fear what we don’t understand, but no amount of pinching will wake us up from this Wonderland, so we’ve just got to figure out what to do.
American politics is a storybook full of interesting notions, not least of all Liberty and Equality. But as noble as these ideas are, they seem to be the source of national discontent. Whenever someone exercises a so-called Liberty, it is ever more likely that someone else will send up a cry about the loss of Equality. And though it seems inevitable that one person’s rights will sometimes lead to the infringement of another’s, there’s no easy fix. However, the nation itself exists on these contradictory tenets, and in order to endure, we have to figure out how to make it work. It’s too easy to quote Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a resounding proclamation that both Liberty and Equality demand their place in America, maintained through a “new birth of freedom,” which invoked the role of the people in the grand American government.We learned then that the uncommunicative division of the nation is not an option. And today, the fight to maintain both Liberty and Equality requires interplay of political ideas.
“Eat Me,” said the cake that made Alice grow large, and maybe big government is the way to go – creating nationwide policies that affect a sweeping spectrum of people with powerful all-encompassing objectives. But Alice also had think small in order to get through the door into Wonderland, shrinking herself with the tonic that said “Drink Me.” (Don’t worry, die-hard Democrats. She checked before drinking to make sure it wasn’t poison.) Perhaps, while certain issues demand comprehensive government policy, other issues are better resolved within the nuances of smaller government. Is it so hard to acknowledge the benefits of both perspectives, or recognize that the give and take between the two fosters true progress and change?
Wandering through our Wonderland government, the media always seems to appear; the smiley Cheshire cat that won’t stop talking but doesn’t seem to say too much. Sometimes, we get the right message. But sometimes, it’s all wrong. We might stumble upon a caterpillar, high as a kite, who’s happy as long as he’s got access to his exotic medication. Or we’ll find ourselves trying to understand topsy-turvy tea-party politics; they may seem mad, but they sure are loyal.The Bandersnatch is full of teeth and fury- a true radical- but maybe he’s just a little misunderstood. Maybe he can be an asset, when given a good purpose?
Nothing is ever what it seems to be in Wonderland, but sometimes the truth is clear as day. Abandoning the ridiculous notions of painting the roses red, or unanswerable riddles querying ravens and writing desks, the enduring constant is that everyone has a role to play. Everyone has a point of view that is applicable in some way. Maybe proclaiming an isolated precept, proselytizing and pointing fingers, is not the way to go. After all, it’s not until Alice finally recognizes the value in each of the crazy creatures she encounters, that she can get down the business of beheading the Jaberwocky.
But that’s a story for another time.