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Vail Valley Voices: A republic’s delicate balance

Shane Musgrove
Vail, CO, Colorado
newsroom@vaildaily.com

The political battle rages on as Democrats dislike Republicans, Republicans dislike Democrats, and independents dislike both.

Add this to the mix: My generation (Y) dislikes the previous generation (X and some Baby Boomers), and these previous generations dislike my generation.

A common thought of Generation Y: “The old guys screwed everything up, so we will fix it when our time comes.”



An assumption of Generation X and the Baby Boomers: “These young guys are idiots and need to learn a thing or two about life.”

I presume this has been the case since our foundations.



Now there seems to be great enmity between parties and generational gaps. Of course I’m generalizing.

Regarding political parties, I believe a 19 percent approval rating of our Congress (average of eight polls — conservative, liberal and those that claim to be unbiased) might be worthy of looking into.

Yes, I know polls are inaccurate to a degree, plus or minus 5 or 10 points of standard deviation. However, give them all 10, which is unlikely to the highest degree, and they set at a 29 percent approval rating. Outside of all of the political chatter, policies and expenditures our Congress is working through, this should raise some questions.



I once had a college professor say, “Crime rates rise in the summer and so do ice cream sales. Does ice cream cause crime or maybe crime causes more people to buy ice cream?”

I will try not to delve into this train of thought by making false correlations here. If so, it is idiotic and nothing more or less can be said of it.

With that said, my assumption is that if we break down politics in the past centuries, even to our beginnings as a country amongst the people, it is a blame game. Whoever wins the blame game wins the people.

My second assumption is that in a republic or democracy, whichever floats your boat, political discourse is a good thing so long as we are not beating each other with sticks, berating one another, and firing musket balls at each other. Better stated, we are not having duels with swords because we disagree to the point that the winner runs down the road with great pride while the loser lies in his own blood.

Regarding the blame game, I cannot remember the last time I heard a politician take responsibility or accountability for doing something immoral, unethical or aiding in the passage of bad policy. This applies to all parties.

The finger always points in the opposite parties direction. (Look at Barney Frank’s response to the fall of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, for instance).

We do the same as regular citizens. How much more do politicians have the ability to do this? It runs even stronger in their bloodline.

So if anything goes wayward, the Republican Party blames the Democratic Party and vice versa. As for the independents, they will blame whoever is up for a beating — maybe to the favor of this nation.

Also, Generation Y blames Generation X and the Baby Boomers for our nation’s problems, while Generation Y is blamed for being apathetic and ignorant.

How quick we are to point the finger in every direction except toward ourselves? Pride maybe?

We all need someone to blame. It is innate in us. We have to have someone to point the finger at because we are unwilling to say some blame might rest on ourselves.

And indeed, none other than politicians are the best at this. However, we as citizens can be above this and point the finger somewhere besides politicians and everyone else in disagreement with us.

We could ultimately look within and see where we can help, as John F. Kennedy said, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Of course, this might require changing the direction of the finger that is pointed outward and turn it to its mirror image — to ourselves. And certainly you may be the only one standing, as Albert Camus sums up well by his statement, “The only real progress lies in learning to be wrong all alone.”

Addressing the second issue of political discourse in a republic, contrary to what I want to believe, it just might be the saving power and true intention of what was established in our beginnings.

We often get frustrated, show disdain and throw rocks at the other side, but it is plausible that we should be thankful for other people’s dissenting opinions.

Inevitably, you will have a supermajority in our government just as we have now in Congress if this is not the case. No sarcasm, but how is that working out for us?

Taking a step back and looking at our population and the beliefs they hold, we see a fairly even divide. This in turn may be the actual beauty of a republic.

Theoretically, if we had a 100 percent agreement, then all political discourse would end and new ideas would cease to exist. I believe there is a name for this — a dictatorship — yet citizens only claim to be in agreement due to fear when they truly are not.

As for me, I do not want to see a fully Republican- or Democratic-led government. Who would we have to blame? This would be slightly vexing — even boring to a degree.

Therefore, the discourse must continue, yet it must continue with respect, dignity and commonsense logic.

It is obvious from our common knowledge of the political climate that surrounds us that there is a cultural, political and generational war taking place in our nation.

Is this a bad thing? A month ago I would have said yes, but after much thought and consideration, I believe it just might be the splendor of our system and what keeps us continuing along a path, however uncertain it may be.

We must remember that in 1776 we fought against our opposition; animosity among citizens was most likely its greatest in our history during the Federalist days; in 1861-1865 we fought amongst ourselves; in 1954 racial segregation ended with Brown v. Board of Education, and I might add with great opposition from the public.

So have we made progress? Looking through this perspective of history, it appears to be so as we are still a united nation of 50 states.

However, Don Rogers reminded me of something: “The victors write the history.” With that said, I will let the reader decide.

Now, outside of a few radicals on the left and right, we mostly have a peaceful dialogue regarding political matters that we as citizens find deeply concerning. That is, we are not launching cannonballs at each other as we did 150 years ago because of our disagreements. That is evidence of progress.

Is disagreement a sign of progression or digression? That’s a thoughtful question that only you can answer, but I would argue that it is a progression as again it might possibly be the delicacy of a republic.

There is and always will be a cultural, political and generational battle among the citizens of a nation, which is a restoring power.

The door for the government to step in will be held wide open if the political discourse and the even divide of citizen’s opinions ends, and apathy ensues. We will have beaten ourselves and the finger points only in our direction.

The cultural, political, and generational war might just be the only thing in between us and a supermajority of political power. In this case, God help us all.

Shane Musgrove is a part-time Vail and part-time Denver resident who attends the University of Colorado.


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