Thursday, October 9, 2008

In Cars and Politics, New Thinking Needed

The very first car I ever owned was a light blue Pontiac Gran Le Mans. It was a lot of steel for a college junior to be driving around, but it came at a good price and I needed something safe. That car later carried me to Georgia where the radio played Kenny Loggins’ song “This Is It” as I exited I-75 in my post-college move to Marietta.

Next, I drove a Mazda and then a Ford, both with 5-speed stick shift transmissions that made the driving experience a lot more interesting. All of those cars came to me “gently used,” and I drove them well into six-digit mileage before they were “retired.” But after the Ford, I decided it was time for me to buy my first brand-new car.

Though I’d had a good experience with the Ford, it seemed that most American-made small cars of the time were rated poorly in quality and maintenance. The Japanese cars I considered lasted longer and got better gas mileage.

But there was a fairly new player on the scene, and though they were actually a division of General Motors, the Saturn car company downplayed their parentage because they were truly doing something different. Saturn built their cars using state-of-the-art practices and their employees were energized and committed n a way that seemed truly unique to that industry. That really got my attention, and so I purchased a Saturn sedan and loved it for a long time. Before Saturn came along, American auto manufacturers were stuck in a rut and it took someone who was willing to think in a completely different way to change that.

I feel that politics in our country is in the same kind of rut. No matter what party they belong to, it seems most politicians are willing to do and say whatever it takes just to keep their jobs, and the more divisive the language the better. It has all just become a game of shaking hands with the devil to raise money, pushing the agendas of the most well-heeled special interests, and telling the public whatever lies are needed to make sure they get re-elected. To heck with the painful truth of where our short-sighted decisions are taking us – whether that be into deep debt, environmental ruin or endless wars.

Most frustrating to me is the unwillingness of either party to see the deeper nature of things – both causes and effects. In my view, the Republicans want to make it all about personal responsibility and morality and turn a blind eye to the real systemic injustices that make it nearly impossible for a lot of people to get ahead. On the other hand, the Democrats want to make it all about fixing a broken system and helping people through government, while turning a blind eye to personal responsibility and self-sufficiency. This split-brain approach only serves to slap a few bandages on the bleeding while ignoring the life-threatening conditions underneath.

Just like when Saturn emerged on the automotive scene, I believe we now have a man on the political scene who really thinks differently and who recognizes that our national problems are not either-or. That man is Barack Obama. For me, he is a breath of fresh air in an environment that has become dangerously polluted. I first recognized his gifts in 2004 during his run for Senate and I hoped and prayed that he would one day become President of this country.

I can’t tell anyone else how to vote, but I can write here that I believe Senator Obama has what it takes to help us take our country back from the moneyed power brokers, the corporate lobbyists and the “same old, same olds” who have been driving us farther and farther away from who we were born to be back in 1776.