Civil Discourse
Have we lost common sense in seeking common ground?
By David E. Black
Date Published: 4/1/2017


In January 1961, President John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” I can’t say I remember the moment, but remember that it has been used time and time again to remind us about what the United States of America is and can be. However 56 years later, it’s probably a good time for everyone to take a step back, catch your breath and consider those words.

Is anyone interested today in what can be done for our country? Is anyone really interested in civil discourse? 

I’ll make two Saturday Night Live references in this column, probably not the best journalistic sources, but if the shoe fits! The first is from now Senator Al Franken, who in the early 1990s as a writer/cast member of SNL did a commentary on the decade of the 1980s as being the “me decade,” as many called those times back then. He made a case; everything was about the individual and what was in it for them alone. To hell with the common good, what about me! He wanted to change that for the 1990s by making it the Al Franken decade and everything should be about Al Franken. But focusing on the “me decade,” we could very easily make that case today. Everyone wants their own way and they want it right now. We even find individual members of Congress of the same party opposing things because they are not liberal or conservative enough. It makes me hang my head. This is not how our country is supposed to work.

There are those who want specific changes in laws and regulations and they want it right now. For a government that was designed by its founding fathers to deliberately move slowly in order to be more measured, ‘right now’ is difficult to accomplish. The Obama Administration raised the bar on ‘right now’ by use of Executive Orders and had some Supreme Court decisions to make some rapid scale changes in certain areas. But before the last Administration, we didn’t hear much about Executive Orders over the last 60 years or so, but during the Obama administration and Trump administration, we’ve seen what seems to be to be too much under Executive Orders (see Saturday Night Live you tube video:
/watch?v=JUDSeb2zHQ0 for more detail). Most of the Executive Orders are seeking immediate change that would likely not pass in Congress. 

Our country, our system of government, our laws were not designed to move at such a rapid pace, nor were they designed to move divisive policies that cause deep divisions throughout the country forward and I’m not just talking about the Trump Administration. I could argue in some cases, they are being used as political wedges to fire up the base of one party or another.

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