Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Missing Word from US Discourse

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Missing Word from US Discourse

Article excerpt

I'VE been trying to understand this bizarre political season, and the word that keeps coming to my mind is "sacrifice."

Sacrifice has two main meanings. The first is a voluntary act of self-denial for a greater good. Heroes do this, whether they be soldiers or parents or saints. The second sacrifice is a victimization that some impose on others to spare themselves.

Americans seem to be succumbing to the temptation to find sacrificial victims to avoid their own need to sacrifice.

Politicians are being placed on the altar of US public discourse. Governor Bill Clinton's "death by a thousand cuts" is a dramatic example. The public's rage over members of Congress who had interest-free use of money belonging to other members is another. The alleged shortcomings of our leaders dominate our attention, blocking out the genuine challenges we face. Instead of making sacrifices ourselves, are we sacrificing our leaders?

Our leaders are hardly blameless. But who is it except us, Americans, who a decade ago gave irresistible power to that president who promised a free lunch where tax cuts would balance the budget? Who rewarded the leaders who cracked, "Go ahead, make my day" and "Read my lips, no new taxes" - even as the red ink flowed? Who buried in a landslide the leader who declared, in the prosperous season of 1984, that he would be honest and tell us he'd raise our taxes to cover the costs of government the country actually wanted?

If our political process is deceitful and cowardly how much is due to our own weakness and/or complicity? If, instead of real leadership, politicians in both parties have maneuvered, as in a game of Old Maid, to see who will be left with the blame, perhaps it is because we did not want to face the hand we dealt to ourselves.

The future we mortgaged is arriving. Paying the mortgage will take sacrifice. What George Bush called "voodoo economics," is draining our national fortune. What former Senator Howard Baker, trying to back his president, euphemistically called a "riverboat gamble," has squandered our inheritance. …

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