Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The Third Road
I know it's not yet autumn equinox - we've still got a couple of weeks to go before the official end of summer. But for all practical purposes, summer ends here in Washington DC on Labor Day. The next day - today - Congress goes back into session, all the kids are back in school, and the quiet laziness of summer vanishes as if by magic.
The Congressional staffers who come to see me for massage are worried, emotional. One high ranking dude was almost in tears, and if you're an American, you can probably guess why. These tough, smart, hard working people must now re-engage with health care reform, among other things. If I worked for Congress, right about now I would be heavily into anti-anxiety medication.
The process is a quagmire. Did you know there are at least four versions of the bill floating around, each of them 1,000 pages long? Four thousand pages - whoa - that's even longer than Shelby Foote's history of the American Civil War and I bet not even a fraction as interesting.
Ronald Brownstein wrote a book called "The Second Civil War" a couple of years ago. It's all about how "extreme partisanship" has rendered our two party system inoperable. I didn't read the book, but I think he's completely right. Initially I blamed Newt Gingrich and later Karl Rove, but these days I think many of us are contributing to the split. We're all responsible now.
During the Bush administration I was outraged, as really I should have been. Somehow I believed that when Obama became president, the extreme differences between the parties would soften. I thought it would be automatic. Boy, was I wrong! In order for two groups to reach consensus, there has to be some common ground, but as far as I can see there is not one square inch of common ground shared by the two U.S. parties.
What about a third road for our country? I've been wondering how that could happen and what it might look like. So far I haven't been able to visualize it, but it's a less discouraging idea than thinking we're doomed, as I have been. It's more hopeful than to continue engaging in righteous indignation. I've stopped watching my beloved Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow because they just get me more worked up, an energetic state that does not help anything. In fact I'm ready to admit that they're just as sensationalistic as those crazy dudes on Fox News, really they are.
I'm trying to imagine a way out of this mess but my mind is like an empty blackboard. I can't see any viable solution if our country remains so rigidly divided, so what would a third road look like in this case? Do you know?
"O see ye not that narrow road,
So thick beset with thorns and briers?
That is the path of righteousness,
Tho after it but few enquires.
"And see not ye that broad broad road,
That lies across that lily leven?
That is the path to wickedness,
Tho some call it the road to heaven.
"And see not ye that bonny road,
That winds about the fern covered mound?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night must go."
--The Fairy Queen, explaining the Third Road to Thomas the Rhymer