An Ocean Apart, Ideas Apart?

Recently a dear old friend, Brian, from my student days in London wrote to me about the impact of the recent elections on him and his friends.  He is a wonderful, insightful, caring, and aware Brit who has, for much of his life, focused his efforts towards making Britain a more caring society by working for racial harmony.  He was a teacher in state schools; a traditional, involved Christian; and not least, served on the local city council in Leicester for the Labor Party.  He has over the decades provided me with many insights on social change in Britain and on changing global landscape.

Here are samples of what he recently wrote to me and is quoted with his agreement:

He starts by saying he has “been watching a BBC TV documentary fronted by Andrew Neil, who was and maybe still is, on Rupert Murdoch’s payroll. It hasn’t stopped him from some very searching observations about these rightwing loonies capitalizing on the economic crisis, latent racism and glorified scapegoating. They really are dangerous and Glen Beck is a quintessential demagogue. I found the whole situation very disturbing, not least because of the shadows in the background, or, in some cases, in the foreground. It’s amazing that a nation which elected Obama and gave hope that Middle America might at last be maturing, is still able to utter such hogwash and get people to fund it. It’s bad enough coping with Little Englanders; coping with a vast swathe of Little Americans, is much scarier. When I say, ‘God save America’, my prayers are markedly different from Beck and Palin and their ilk.”

He adds:

“As a Christian, I can’t get my head round the notion that people should oppose national provision of basic healthcare. (Matt 25 – ‘I was sick and you visited me…’). These ‘Christian’ fundamentalists, with their restricted world view, but don’t get me going….., except to say that when I lived in Zambia and saw local sheep and goats, I was struck by how similar they looked and how you needed to be very perceptive to sort them out, so when I thought of Matt. 25 and sorting the sheep from the goats, I thought some people who may see themselves or be seen as sheep may get a surprise! Never take God for granted, not even His grace.”

I have commented on the reactions abroad to the mid-term election in my earlier blogs but my friend’s words express, in a far better way, the view of those who still want decent American leadership and their disappointment with the direction of our country and its leadership in the world.

As I get ready to visit Europe I will be having lots of meetings and chats with both political leaders and common folk in order to explore their concerns, views, and hopes; including their view of the outside world and the role of their government. You will hear more on this in the coming weeks.

Polls both here and in Europe are showing much unease with the rise of nationalistic and xenophobic groups and parties. Contrary to the claims of the right, on both sides of the pond, the people want government to do more not less in helping the unemployed. In Europe and the U.S., they want decent jobs and the government to facilitate their creation. They want available and affordable health care guaranteed by the government. They want good and universal public education.  And yes, they want the poor and disabled to be looked after by the government.  And they want to be safe and know the security of their nation is being looked after and that their government is pursuing enlightened and far-looking foreign policies that will lead to a more peaceful world.

What is the problem with this perspective? The problem is that governments on both sides of the Atlantic are not following many of their constituents’ desires. But, as in Britain and here, some of the right wing media have persuaded a fair number of citizens to vote against their interests and fundamental values.  Here in America even democratic rights have been upended by the influx of untraceable money of the very rich to “buy” elections wholesale with much success.

A lot of my national security colleagues have commented how much our national security has been impacted by this flow of money. For example, the ratification of the New START treaty has been endangered by adding a number of the crazy “Tea Party” types who either want a more militaristic approach government’s engagement abroad or alternatively simply want to make our policies isolationist. What also will be their view on helping developing countries, arms control, or global warming? They will likely cut funding across the board for these programs. Only the diminished Democratic Senate and Obama will try to oppose these cuts. How will our citizens, here and in Europe, react to the drastic cuts being proposed (concurrently with tax cuts for the rich)?

My definition of “national security” is the ability to give citizens a sense of well-bring, safety from want, and security from “fear” from whatever quarter; including, deprivations from their own governments and from the greedy, unaccountable rich and corporate power who have not a single care for “the least among us.”

We are not that much “apart” on the common impact of the present economic crisis, nor in sharing a common vulnerability towards the spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, or global warming.  But divisions arise on the issue of helping those in need. Conservative governments in cutting their own “safety net”, as evinced by our own “Republican rise”, may point towards growing cooperation but not for a common good.  Economic policy is a fundamental part of national security policy and caring for our people and the world is a key component of a good national security policy.


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