Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When a debater becomes a debaser

You only have to change one letter to turn a debater into a debaser. A debaser is a person who lowers quality or character or value, a dedicated pessimist and spoiler. Debate and democracy serve each other.

Debasers throw beer cans at athletes. They shout words once kept on a high shelf, out of reach for the sober. I was 17 when I first heard words of four letters each used conversationally, rolling off the asbestos lips of drill instructors in the different world of 1942. Almost everybody was at war. Men were drafted into military service. Women volunteered for the armed forces and filled all kinds of war production jobs. Gas was rationed, there were no new cars for civilians, food was rationed, book margins were trimmed to save paper, there were blackouts and the horror of receiving a Western Union telegram announcing the loss of a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent.

Wars continue, but relatively few Americans are part of them. There’s no draft, no war tax, no rationing of gas and food. The country is so great it continues to provide medical care and food for people of any nationality whose lives are impacted by war, tsunami, hurricane, earthquake or flood. But the melting pot country of e pluribus unum developed a medical pot enthusiasm for celebrating differences. That’s part of a process of sharing respect. Not everybody sees it that way. Although nobody anticipated the degradation of politics that erupted in 2016, citizens expect that political sickness will heal itself, as it has in other times of challenge.

I’ve been exposed to a lot of politics. I’ve covered campaign rallies, presidents and governors, written editorials, worked for Hawaii statehood, and loved it all. I spent a few years observing Vatican politics at close range.

Catholic politics is mostly clerical. My time as communications officer for the Episcopal Diocese  in Orlando showed me why so many presidents of the United States have been Episcopalians. The Episcopal Church blends religious and democratic instincts into a denomination of prayers and votes, preaching and politics, generosity in outreach, and lusty singing.

Politics where we work, politics in government, politics in religion, the politics of education and even in family life, is here to stay, along with death and taxes and tax returns.

Back in the 1970’s, when I chaired the salary committee of a printing company, I was alerted by management that health care costs were going to rise very high and very soon. That did not prevent me from picking up an expensive disease called multiple system atrophy, which awaits discovery of a cure by dedicated medical researchers.

Thanks to family and friends I’m receiving better care and kinder comments than even candidates for president. With a firm grip on my rollator I walk from one end of the house to the other as surely as if my head were not full of sloshing oatmeal. I’ve received my share of MSA symptoms, and some of them are cutting into my computer fun. It could be a lot worse. I don’t think I’ll make Christmas cards this year, but I’m going to vote, and I won’t be the only dizzy voter in 2016. I voted for the first Catholic president, the first African-American president and the first Hawaiian president.

And soon another first.

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