Everyone’s a critic

It has been a while since I posted a column here and it isn’t because of writer’s block exactly. A while back I decided that I would not use this space solely for the purpose of criticizing others unless I also had some suggestion for a solution to the situation I was criticizing. Isn’t it time to focus on what needs to be done instead of what is wrong?

As the Obama team is being assembled I am impressed with the direction he has chosen – competence over ideology. As a sometimes far-left progressive, I am more than happy to put aside personal ideals in favor of simply getting government working again. After what some have claimed was an eight year project to destroy the effectiveness of government, that would be a major accomplishment.

Likewise in the current financial meltdown, my own lack of expertise has led me to offer a few suggestions but decline to attack those of others, even in the face of what appear already to be serious missteps by the current Administration.

It seems to me that more than anything else in these times is developing a sense of community, common goals and building trust and cooperation. We have been engaged, as a nation, is so much divisiveness and harsh criticism for so long we may have lost sight of the need to pull together. One good thing about the economic crisis is that we may be forced to do so for our survival.

While a healthy democracy requires a vigilant and critical look at not only government but ourselves, it takes much more than that – it takes each of us finding what common ground we can and speaking to what binds us together at least as much as what divides us. There has been precious little of that for decades now, and we are suffering the consequences.

I am not advocating “happy talk” nor glossing over errors or omissions. What I am suggesting is that I, and maybe others, are tired of the harping, nitpicking and constant stream of negativity that has so dominated public discourse for so long. Doug Thompson writes today of the corrosive effect of partisanship. I would add that it goes deeper than that.

Not only in politics is partisanship eating at our fabric, but it extends to all levels of our culture. Little is left of our ability to consider the welfare of others when we speak and act. Thankfully there are many among us who center their lives on just such considerations, but there are might forces working in other directions.

Rampant commercialism is as much the source of our problems as any partisan politics. Personal ethics have devolved to seeking advantage for oneself with little concern even for family or friends in too many cases. Parents abandon marriage with little real regard for their children. And as they age, many among us have nowhere to turn but limited resources of government.

What I like most about President-elect Obama is his apparent commitment to bringing all of us together, abandoning labels that divide us in favor of facing our problems as one people. This is the spirit that America excels at in times of grave need. It is the America we are all proud of and it is the real “change we need.”

Let us embark together in a new direction of cooperation, comity and holding our tongues when we feel the urge to criticize others. Everyone may be a critic, but not every criticism is helpful. We are sorely needing to work together and a commitment to doing what we can for our common good.

That is the real patriot’s course.

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