Every four years, states across the map of the United States are colored "blue" and "red." The high-stakes contest between "us" and "them" escalates from finger pointing to out-and-out lies that make the enemy out to be not only wrong, but unpatriotic. Put the liberals on the West Coast and let them break off into the ocean. Bake the conservatives in the Southern sun so their necks turn even more red. The extremes on both sides inhale their own brand of talk radio, and cable TV’s talking heads spew dogma 24 hours a day. They demonize each other about "right" and "wrong" and show outright contempt towards one another. Out of party loyalty, normally unassuming men and women shout and talk over one another to get in the last word.

Those in the center of this political tug-of-war are branded sheeple by both sparring factions. Actually, they shut out the noise and try to carry on with their daily lives, aware but disdainful that the presidential campaign once again has raised its ugly head.

Found out this morning

There’s a circus coming to town

They drive in cadillacs

Using walkie-talkies, and the secret service

Their big top

Imitation of life

And all the flags and microphones

We have to cover our eyes

– “The Democratic Circus,” Talking Heads

Too much to dream

I had a dream last night that America was split into two separate nations. One was more "left" or progressive leaning, and it governed its people with a form of democratic socialism that sought to eliminate poverty. Every citizen received free health care and every child could go to college for free. Taxes were high. but everyone was smiling. Militarily, it assumed a Swiss brand of neutrality, choosing to reduce its defense budget and enact a Department of Peace. Its citizens were given stipends to travel the world and encouraged to speak more languages.

It existed next to another more conservative nation with very low taxes, a strong military and a small central government that, despite its size, carried a big stick. Its law-and-order leaders demanded patriotism and encouraged the expression of orthodox Christian viewpoints. Its citizens also were smiling, waving their flags as they went to bed, knowing that no nation was loved by God as much as their own.

At the crossroads

I awoke from that dream wondering where the people in the center lived. I guess some of them moved to the left to take advantage of health-care benefits, while others moved to the right to take advantage of tax loopholes. Others probably remained right where they were, preferring to go about their daily lives as they always had, with an occasional tear dribbling down their cheek when they think of the nation as it once was – whole.

As a nation, we are still standing at the crossroads. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson held opposing beliefs about the power of the central government and the nature of its foreign policy. Today, the Bush Doctrine’s unwavering unilateralism and support for preemptive strikes directly contradicts the stance of those who embrace a more global diplomacy.

Creating anew

On the surface, one might conclude that not much has changed in the United States of America since its founding 232 years ago. Politics is still a savage game. And it will continue to be, as long as our the ego’s quest for power determines the outcome.

Now is the time to transcend those impulses, to work for the common good of all America. A nation is only as strong as her weakest citizen. Let us come together to lift up those who are only surviving and motivate them to achieve more than they ever believed was possible. Let those among us who are thriving do more to uplift those who are not. Let us come together and listen to one another with renewed respect, to create a common good.

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