Politics Are Not Sport

The Right Ain’t Right.

Political fights may be bloody, but politics are not sport. Politics are a way of discovering and honing ideas, a way of forging alliances to get things done, a means to effective governance in an unruly society of diverse interests. The results are not valid if half of the population is seen to have lost. They are acceptable only if they are conducive to reasoned and ethical compromises that lead to better results than if one half had completely lost and the other half completely won.

Divided government is a very good thing when it achieves better solutions. My hope in the election of 2012 is that if my choices lose, the people of my way of thinking will not adopt the loud, mean, winner-take-all intransigent posture that would perpetuate the cycle of obstruction and indecision. I expect my choices to work with those willing to compromise for fair solutions for all.

To avoid debilitating shock, though, I try to prepare myself mentally for any eventuality. How will Americans govern themselves henceforth? The bottom line is that the radical conservative Tea Party, and their sponsors at Fox News, have to be further marginalized and schooled.

Therefore, having cast my vote, I have arrived at two optimistic scenarios that will perhaps soften the blow no matter how the national election turns out. In one, the incumbent wins, the radicals are discredited and faulted for failure, and moderate Republicans start doing what they were supposed to do all along, compromise with centrist Democrats to govern the country with common sense. (The surprising cooperation of the incumbent and the governor of New Jersey after hurricane Sandy might indicate the plausibility of this scenario.) In the other, less palatable, and less convincing, scenario, the challenger wins narrowly, turns out to be a genuinely principled moderate with spine – not evidenced during most of the primary and general election season. He, moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats join forces to govern effectively.

In both scenarios, the radical conservative wing is exposed as a bucket of impractical ideologues incapable of governing. And unrepentant, fanatical elected officials are consigned to their rightful corner on the obscure back bench of politics and history.

Tractors Are Us

Low Idles

I am the proud owner of a copy of Medieval Technology and Social Change by Lynn White, Jr. (Oxford University Press, 1962, 1967). In this old hardcover book, the author documents the dramatic alterations specific technological innovations wrought on Western culture. Not all of the advances originated in the West, but the adoption, adaptations, and application by the West more than made up for an absence of authorship. It is a very good thing for the West that there were no prevailing patent laws back in the early Middle Ages. Wholesale theft of other people’s innovations was a practiced Western art form. For example, the humble stirrup and lowly heavy plough revolutionized warfare and agriculture. This slight book, obtained decades ago, forced me to look at gadgets and machinery in different ways. Afterward, I saw more than a touch of art in the most rust- and grease-bound objects found in junk yards and the dark corners of old barns. Though I dearly love working with wood and the look of wood finishes, the difficulty of fabricating metal pieces casts an artful aura over the disintegrating remains of once-powerful machines. Delicacy alone means less amid a craving for things brutal upon which one can firmly stand and jump. But delicacy joined with practical effectiveness yields stronger substance still.

The new story in TennesseeSoul has little to do with this preface. Or does it?

Read it here.