Photo: Noella Choi via Flickr
Our founding fathers started it all with the first cries for liberty in the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution to ensuring American citizens the right of free speech with the 1st Amendment in the U.S. Constitution – it’s in the DNA of the American culture and the American people to speak our mind politically. Anticipating the 2012 election year, everyone is talking politics – with cab drivers, bartenders, hair stylists, fellow employees, friends, family, and just about everyone. Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams would be proud.
The political debate is on in America from the Internet to family dining room tables. President Obama and Congress have sparked a passion in the American people on all sides of every issue and within all political parties. The debt ceiling, annual deficit spending, and an accumulated debt in the trillions have brought citizen and politician debate to a fever pitch.
Americans are engaged and debating their political positions with passion fully exercising their 1st Amendment rights. To express their views, voters are joining Facebook political pages, following politicians on Twitter, posting political commentary on blogs, writing editorials to traditional newspapers, and sending politicians emails and letters directly.
We are watching political programs on television or the Internet, and we are reading political themed books to the extent these books are on numerous best-seller lists. Political speakers are a big draw on college campuses. Political blogs and news articles abound on the Internet with a huge following and comment participation.
Over the last two years, Americans have attended political rallies, protests, and town hall meetings in record numbers and are speaking their mind.
Americans question our government and its policies, simply because we can and we care. Voters express their positive and negative opinions of President Obama and members of Congress without fear of censorship or reprisal.
We debate specific legislation and the way in which our tax dollars are being spent by Congress. As was the debate with the framers of the U.S. Constitution, Americans are discussing what role government can and should have in our lives and businesses by constitutional law.
Many are exploring the benefits of our Christian founding and our capitalist roots. Many declare in the debate that our country was not founded on Christian principles at all. Many today know the definitions of capitalism, socialism, Marxism, and communism, which they may not have thought about or discussed a year ago.
We are discussing the differences between these political philosophies from an American perspective. We are discussing whether or not America is in fact being fundamentally transformed by this President and Congress with a legislative agenda; and, if so, what this change really means in America and for Americans.
Americans are getting back in touch with the U.S. Constitution. For the first time since high school, many Americans are reading the Constitution again. Many are specifically looking up the 10th Amendment and the Commerce Clause.
In today’s world of 2,000+ page legislative health care bills coming out of Congress, a 48 page Pocket United States Constitution which also includes the Bill of Rights, Amendments 11-27, the Declaration of Independence, and a complete index of the Constitution is a big seller. It is even being sold on eBay and other sources online in volume packages.
Americans are questioning if various federal legislation that is being considered or has passed is “constitutional”. We are debating our beliefs and positions on the original framers’ intent of the specific rights given to the people, states, and the federal government in the U.S. Constitution in particular.
Political comments and debate are all over the Internet and social media platforms. Voters are engrossed in the political debate, and social media is a perfect platform as evidenced by thousands of political themed pages and groups on Facebook and profiles on Twitter. YouTube has political videos and clips too numerous to count. LinkedIn, the all professional social media site, now has raging political debate in many of its discussion groups.
The rhetoric is usually civil, but sometimes it is not. It is common for one to have been friended, followed, hidden, defriended, unfollowed, and even blocked on social media by friends and acquaintances for their political views.
Everyone has a right to say whatever they want with a few lawful exceptions, yet there is also an ethical responsibility in free speech. There is a true logic in effective debate that does not persuade by spouting political spin and myth as fact. Personally attacking others for differing political opinion only illustrates you have nothing to back up your position, or it is perhaps a part of your nature in general.
With our 1st Amendment rights comes the common sense responsibility to debate our position on issues with integrity. Integrity is not displayed in demonizing a political party, or personal attacks, or name calling.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, before he was a GOP presidential candidate, held the first Facebook town hall meeting on March 31, 2010. It was well received, and it proved out to be a great use of social media to provide a real-time, transparent, economical, and interactive way to talk with voters.
Americans are tuning in to politically based television programs, especially on cable networks like CNN and Fox, with increasing numbers beginning with the 2008 presidential campaign and election. Whether you like Fox News or hate it, there is no denying FNC program The O’Reilly Factor and the recently departed Glenn Beck program has dominated the cable ratings.
Glenn Beck was the only person in America, other than Oprah Winfrey, whom was able to catapult a book to the top of popular best seller book lists simply by mentioning the book on his program – and, these were political and history themed books.
Whether you drink coffee, tea, kool-aide or just plain water, everyone has an opinion. There are usually very different ones in the same family. In my own family of four sisters, debate is lively as I suspect it is in every American family.
One sister is a die-hard Republican, and one is a died-in-the-wool Democrat. One believes President Obama wants to move America to a European style socialist culture, and one believes social justice policies which redistribute wealth are just fine and fair.
One thinks the new health care legislation is unconstitutional, and one believes everyone should have “free” healthcare. One was upset over the check she had to write when she filed her taxes in April, since she felt the government already took too much out of her pay all year. One does not pay federal income tax and thinks a hike in the tax rates of the rich is the only way to pay for needed government programs.
One can not wait for the 2012 election, which she feels will surely replace President Obama, and the other thinks that sister is just an Obama hater. Yep, Elizabeth and Rosie are still debating from the view inside of my family.
The only hot button issue we all seem to agree on is same-sex marriage should be legal, and we were happy to see the Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell policy repealed. Of course other family members then debate us all on our equal human rights position and the definition of marriage.
Thousands of Americans do not just express opinions with each other. Many also call their representatives in Washington or write them as part of the American political debate – in fact, many in 2010 and 2011 have done this for the first time in their lives. Every day Americans want and expect a seat at the table of political discussion and debate.
Some say America’s best days are behind us. I do not believe that. As 2010 and 2011 already reflects, Americans are not complacent about our Constitution, politics, politicians, and government policy. The majorities of Americans love their country and are willing to debate for their vision for it – no matter what side of the political isle they support.
Our founding fathers are looking down on us and smiling. They are pleased we are proud of the political roots they firmly planted, and we are still discussing their work and legacy. Perhaps they would have liked the Internet, and without a doubt, each would have had their own political blog and offered Facebook and Twitter town hall meetings.
They are fist-bumping each other that we, as American citizens, continue to engage in passionate political debate; and that we regularly utilise our 1st Amendment right of free speech to do so without fear or censorship. This is one of the ways we honour our heritage and their legacy. The political debate is definitely on in 2011 and into 2012 – as it should be by the intended design of the American culture’s DNA.
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