The Ramblings of a Confused American

Candid Commentary CJ Clark

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]I[/su_dropcap] AM CONFUSED. I am questioning long-standing values that I had always accepted as gospel. I don’t like this feeling; it makes me uncomfortable. When I am confused and uncomfortable, I tend to ramble. Rambling helps me to organize my thoughts, so ramble I shall. Perhaps it will help.

I started this column because I had something to say about the political environment. This time last year, I had no doubts about where my allegiance lay. While I didn’t care for the far-right approach of the Tea Party, I was comfortable with a country that would head back where we belonged: to a place of small government, personal responsibility, consequences for not taking responsibility, and a strong and commanding leadership presence in the world.

I eagerly watched the Fox News shows, and commiserated silently with Baier and Kelly about what was happening on “the left.” I had faith that, if a top Presidential candidate really had knowingly done something that would put our country or our armed forces in danger, not to mention not accept the “buck stops here” mantra of leadership, the American people surely would not see fit to elect that individual. I wasn’t sure which was worse – deliberately disobeying a fundamental policy of government agencies, or letting herself off the hook because someone else (who worked for her) didn’t mark email as classified. Oh come on….even front line supervisors recognize the fallacy of blaming a misstep on a subordinate without first looking inward, don’t they?

Wake Up America FlagThe American people will wake up; of course we will. Surely women will not cast a vote simply because they want to elect the first female President of the United States and not because of the considered and proven credentials to lead the country. Were that the case, I think we’d best be heading back to the time when women were not allowed to vote because they weren’t seen as being smart enough.

I chuckled when Bernie began to build momentum, thinking he might offer an alternative to liberals, bump her out of first place, but be unable to hold on for the general election, and “we” could get back to a conservative country.

I was cautiously okay with the early hordes of aspiring conservative candidates, thinking that a strong and qualified candidate would certainly emerge. I got testy when some hung on so long that they began diluting the field in primaries and caucuses. I kept thinking, the conservatives are going to wake up and realize that this is not the way to win an election, and we desperately need to win, given the candidates in the other field.

And here we are today. How the hell did we get here? Please pinch me and tell me I’m dreaming.

Apparently, I’m not dreaming so several weeks ago, I turned off Fox News and stopped reading Charles Krauthammer, because I was just getting angrier and I could feel my blood pressure rising. I decided that my new mantra would be “We’re screwed but there’s nothing I can do about it.” We jokingly looked at property in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia where they invited Americans who were dissatisfied with the political environment here to their beautiful island.

My blood pressure went down a bit with my new-found attitude. I didn’t get angry because I wasn’t reading or thinking about it. Surely the world won’t fall apart, right? All these doomsayers are just spreading fear. It can’t be that bad.

Then today in the supermarket parking lot, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “You can’t be a Christian and be pro-choice.” Earlier this week I saw an article on Facebook that quoted Obama as saying that “Christians threaten the nation.”

That makes me stop in my tracks. I sit down and I think about what really is happening today, not through my personal filter of conservative ideas, but through the filter of what I believe is great about this country – freedom to be different and acceptance (well, maybe tolerance) of differences.

If I remember my Sunday School lessons, Jesus taught love, tolerance and acceptance of everyone regardless of who they were or what they did. I’m pretty sure He wouldn’t like that bumper sticker either. And I’m not so sure He would be in favor of shutting our country to others because of religious beliefs.

I doubt He would be really happy with a lot of the rhetoric that is coming from conservatives these days, at least those who seem to be leading our political race, whether in His name or not. And I’m just guessing here, but I bet He’d be joined by some of our founding fathers who saw America as a place where anyone could make good, regardless of who they were or what they believed.

It’s been a hard road for our country, but we have come so far – really we have. When I was a child, my mother couldn’t go into a restaurant for dinner in slacks – she had to have on a dress. She couldn’t be within 5 feet of the bar; my father had to bring her a glass of wine. In the scheme of things, that isn’t that long ago. My first job was in a department store that had only recently desegregated a restaurant; neither women nor people of color could enter prior to the change.

This kind of change is hard; it challenges the basic bedrock of people’s upbringing, values and beliefs. Some people buy it, some just sit in quiet acceptance and some fight it every chance they get. That’s what happens when you have free will, freedom of speech and different perceptions of different people. But look at how far we have come – we have a person of color in the White House, and will most likely have a woman there next year. Let’s not lose sight of what we have achieved.

Our country was founded on these basic principles, and an imperfect governance was established to balance power, preserve the dream of a free country and make change as the world evolves through a formal, constitutional process.

That worked well when those who had power were all thinking the same thing. But we no longer have a homogenous population. We have knowingly and intentionally invited anyone to find a place in this great country. We have cared so much about everyone that we have inadvertently taken such good care of them that they may have lost the will or skill to take care of themselves.

That brings us to our challenge today – how to find peace with all of the wonderful differences in the beliefs and values of the new American people.

But wait! There are some values that shouldn’t and really can’t be different and those are the values on which the country was founded, and the premise of the constitutional governance that was put in place to preserve our core values.

Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to bear arms – none of those core values are absolute; each has their nuances that have to be respectfully debated as time and our population evolves. But those are the core values of our country – come here and succeed no matter who or what you are.

For the conservative right to tell me what I must believe is as much of a threat to the core values of our country as radical Islam. Yes, I realize that is a pretty dramatic analogy, but think about it – it is completely counter to our core values of welcoming everyone regardless of belief system. And I probably should add, so long as they follow the laws that were enacted to preserve our freedom.

I am having trouble refuting Obama’s comment about Christianity threatening our country, at least from the perspective of those radical beliefs that place judgment on others who do not share their beliefs and divide the country.

I have always thought of America as a Christian nation, probably because I was brought up that way. My Christianity, however, is in the Man who gave solace and love to those most “undeserving” thereby creating a core value that everyone, no matter what, is worthy of love and care. So maybe it isn’t that America is a Christian country to me, but that America – at least the America I believe in – is a caring, free and generous country. We are imperfect, yes. We haven’t fixed all the inequality, and may never achieve total equality – which actually makes sense because of our basic differences.

So, I’ve rambled on and on, and don’t really have any resolution, nor do I feel any less stressed about our country. Perhaps the clarity I have gained relates to the fact that our country was never intended to be so polarized; that is the antithesis of who we are supposed to be.

I am also clear that I can’t identify with either political party any longer. What I do believe in is the freedom of opportunity that comes from hard work, the value of free speech and thought, and the love of and caring for fellow man. That transcends political affiliation. Could it also give us a set of core values that we all could rally behind?

[su_box title=”What Do You Think?” style=”glass” box_color=”#2f598a”]Thanks for rambling along with me. I would love to hear your thoughts on our country, where we are going, and what we might do differently as a cohesive and collaborative people.[/su_box]


CJ Clark
CJ Clark
EXPLORING issues beyond the sound bites of today’s news coverage and challenging the status quo. It’s about questions, issues and answers. And it’s about time …

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  1. Great article CJ – you are doing what all concerned citizens should be doing i.e. encouraging and engaging in rational discussion on issues which we are right to get emotional about. Here in New Zealand, I and many others have the same problem as you – we have no one to vote for in general elections because of the highly questionable policies on all sides of the political spectrum, and of course, the lack of integrity in the candidates on both sides. America has the splendid foundation of the Constitution, but in this age of ideological brainwashing on both Left and Right, and the cultural divide this has opened up, having a rational discussion has become very difficult – people prefer to shriek and to demonise opponents. Your principles seem entirely sound and reasonable, CJ, and I am sure that the Silent Majority would nod in agreement – but they have to do more than nod – they have to stand up and be counted, not shrieking and demonising, but speaking and serving.

  2. What this country has evolved into is not a dream, it is a very dark nightmare. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “I’m not going to vote, all the candidates stink”. Probably not the right answer, but I can relate to the sentiment.

    • Hi Ken – thanks for your comment. You’re right, it is not the answer. Just don’t know what is.