Modern Lysias

Writings of Modern Lysias.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Open Response to the 2004 Presidential Campaign

Last night, with great trepidation, I viewed/listened to the final debate between Senator John Kerry and President George Bush. This was the final installment in what I have viewed as an extremely mediocre presidential race, with no candidate really shining forth and telling the American people something of real value.

There have been many arguments, and claiming of extremist positions, but it has become increasingly apparent to me that no matter how many times Mr. Bush compares the Senator to Ted Kennedy, they are both really so close on policy issues it is very hard to distinguish. I think if you actually imagined a line of moderation which represented the absolute middle of the arena between liberal and conservative, that both candidates are glaring at each other from just barely on the opposite sides of that line.

I suppose if a voter wanted to see the true variations, you should look into some of the other candidates. The Libertarian, Green, and Reform parties are all fielding candidates this campaign. In fact, there are over 70 candidates running who have qualified for the office of President in various states. If you want to take a look at some extremes... read up on the platform of the National Barking Spider Resurgence Party. Or the 21st Century Prohibition Party. Or the Menorah-Thor Party. Or the United Fascist Party. If you want more information on any of these, please go visit This site contains a wealth of information about ALL the presidential candidates (including those silly "mainstream" parties).

In general, the Republican and Democratic party platforms that each side swears is the polar opposite of their rivals, are really not that different. They may take this personally, but it really is very hard to tell the difference between candidates once they take office. If you listed out things that each president did, actions he made while in office, without knowing their name (aside from well-know wars and such), unless you are an avid student of the process, most voters could not tell the difference. Take this quick quiz:

What was the party affiliation of the President who:

1) Added the Department of Energy to the Federal bureaucracy?

2) set aside some 150 million acres of public lands to protect them from exploitation by private interests?

3) Vetoed over 200 Pension Bills from Congress that would have provided relief for thousands of veterans?

4) Reauthorized an existing Act of Congress to establish higher standards for air quality and required cleaner burning fuels?

5) Spoke out for a single presidential term and moderation of the executive powers?

Can you figure it out? Some of these might surprise you. Answers will be at the bottom of this post.

The point is, a candidate will always seem a lot more away from the line of moderation during the campaign, than when he actually takes office. The reason for this, is it is very easy to make a lot of promises, but a completely different story when you suddenly have to work with a congress who is opposed to your policies, or an electorate who questions the legitimacy of your presidency, or when 3000 citizens are suddenly killed by a terrorist attack when you have not even completed your first year in office. Candidates are very seldom able to fulfill all of their campaign promises.

So, it is up to us to judge their performance on their actual merit. What were they able to accomplish, with the circumstances they were given? Yes, it is very difficult to look at a president who is given a $236 billion governmental surplus (not the $5.1 trillion John Kerry has been quoting, which was a PROJECTED surplus), and understand why he now is in the middle of a $413 billion deficit. I retract that: it is not hard to understand why we are there, all of the governmental spending over the last 4 years is a matter of public record. But could he have made different choices to reduce that level of spending? That is a matter for another post. Maybe after the election I will take on that one.

I have come to a point where I watch the candidates, and listen to them closely, for a defining stand they will take, that shows their integrity as a person, as a leader. Something that stands out to me, and says, this individual may not agree with me on every issue, but I can really respect his opinion, and I think he will have my best interests, and the interests of the American People in mind. Listen to this excerpt from last night's presidential debate (Senator Kerry speaking):

"I believe that I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith...My faith affects everything that I do, in truth. There's a great passage of the Bible that says, 'What does it mean, my brother, to say you have faith if there are no deeds? Faith without works is dead.' And I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith, but without transferring it in any official way to other people. That's why I fight against poverty. That's why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth. That's why I fight for equality and justice. All of those things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith.... But I know this, that President Kennedy in his inaugural address told all of us that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own. And that's what we have to -- I think that's the test of public service."

Whatever your belief system, you should hold a great deal of respect for this man. If we allow any form of religious expression to influence our system of government over another, we are allowing that one system to become a motivational factor in our government. We tried that before, and the crusades did not go very well. This moment in the debate was one of John Kerry's finest.

President Bush had a moment, during his inaugural speech, that captured my attention, that seemed to be his defining moment:

"The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise: that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant person was ever born. . . . What you do is as important as anything government does. I ask you to seek a common good beyond your comfort; to defend needed reforms against easy attacks; to serve your nation, beginning with your neighbor. I ask you to be citizens, not spectators. Responsible citizens, building communities of service and a national character."

I have seen in the past year, a very different George W. Bush than this speech portrayed. Much has happened during his administration that I believe he could have never imagined. He is a determined man, and one committed to his causes. Are those causes also your causes? He said "no insignificant person was ever born". Have his policies reflected this belief? Has the general tenor of his administration worked toward "building communities of service and a national character"?

This is a question we must each answer for ourselves in the upcoming election. Please listen to the candidates. All of them will quote and spin facts to their own advantage. Most of the facts that the candidates quote are a matter of public record, and you can easily find out if they are true, false or somewhere in between. And you can usually ignore them when they refer to "misleading", and "lying" of the other parties. Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. Maybe the candidate from the National Barking Spider Resurgence Party can cast that stone.

Be informed in your decision-making. Do not accept as gospel the party-line, but seek out and learn the truth. And then, and only then, will you be ready to make a good decision.

Modern Lysias

Answers to the quiz:

1) Democrat - Jimmy Carter

2) Republican - Theodore Roosevelt

3) Democrat - Grover Cleveland

4) Republican - George Herbert Walker Bush

5) Whig - William Henry Harrison

If you don't know or remember what the Whig Party was - perhaps a bit of study of the history of the American political system is in order. All of this information is available in Microsoft Encarta (rights and stuff to Microsoft).

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

In Defense of Citizenship

Future generations should be frightened for the legacy we are imparting to them: the behavior of our government and current political system brings greater danger to the innocent than to those who are guilty of many offences. Our current debate has demonstrated exactly what our government, the outdated political parties, and the persons with enough money to buy advertising time think of the general populace of the United States. Apparently they have come to the conclusion that we do not really care about genuine issues; but about past history, loyalty to spiritual causes of the day, and exaggerated facts quoted from unreliable extremist sources.

When I was growing up, in school we were taught "citizenship". I was taught that members of a democratic society care about one another, contribute toward the common good, and participate in sustaining a democratic way of life. Citizens need to recognize individual differences; acknowledge common bonds; and demonstrate skills related to diversity, inclusiveness, and fairness. If you agree with these basic ideas, then you are a citizen, and have a fundamental responsibility to engender these principles in your community, and raise children and future leaders to promote these values as well. If you do not see these values in your leaders, get new leaders.

There is a good chance that your children are being taught these values in their schools, and you wholeheartedly embrace and reward your schools when they demonstrate these programs. But then you taint their values, when you start to show your own partisan opinions. Your children are so impressionable, they soon forget the principles of citizenship, and begin to adopt either a partisan extremism or a political apathy. All political parties and candidates promote this extremism, in their words, in their conventions, and especially in their verbal sparring.

The Sophists in Ancient Greece taught the skills of rhetoric and oratory. Both of these arts were considered essential education in Athens; after all, it was their offspring who would be leading the council someday. Just as it is YOUR children who will one day be our political leaders, but we are not giving them the tools they need to become true leaders.

The following is from a writing made at trial by the Ancient Greek Philosopher Lysias, where he was accused of uprooting an Olive Tree. Consider his statement of the facts of the case:
"... This trial has been made especially perplexing for me, because at first I was indicted for clearing away an olive tree from my land, and they went and made an inquiry of the men who had brought the produce of the State olives; but having failed by this method to find that I have done anything wrong, they now say it is an olive-stump that I cleared away, judging that for me this is a most difficult accusation to refute, while to them it allows more freedom to make any statement that they please."

Ponder this fragment in your heart and mind, and analyze it. It describes a man, accused of a crime, and when it became clear that a lack of evidence existed to convict him of this crime, or that he may even have been innocent, a new charge is brought against him, which is impossible to disprove. No matter which group you side with in the political system of the United States, you have seen this same behavior. No party or individual is blameless. Do they act with the best interests of the American people in mind? I cannot answer that question, for I am not the people. Only you can answer this question. And only for yourself. Just as a candidate for president does not know what the American people want and need, neither do you. You are only one person.

But, you are one person with an incredible power. You are a citizen. You have within your grasp the inimitable power of your vote. If you do not vote - if you do not let your voice be heard - if you do not step forward and tell your leaders your opinions... Then they will continue to lead us in the way they do, and our country will continue to be lead by an uninformed political class of individuals who have become de facto despots, because we, as a people, lack the integrity and fortitude to speak up and utilize the political process we instituted.

The character of the State should reflect the character of the people. Does your State reflect the character of the people? Of You? It is our State. Let us demonstrate that we will no longer be subjugated by those who do not represent us. Instead, think. Vote. Move. Speak. Write. Explain your positions with dignity, and forethought. Do not act out of haste, or party affiliation, or ignorance. Explore the issues. Know who you are fighting, and for what you are fighting.

It begins

To anyone who might be listening (or reading), I thought it possible for a person who so desired to avoid both politics and anxieties by leading a quiet life; but now I find myself so unexpectedly assaulted with inane rhetoric, self-aggrandizement, and absolute lack of truth from all political parties (and variously associated groups) in the current presidential campaign that I am sad in my soul.

Prior to this date, I believed it was not my place to express my thoughts and opinions, and who would really care to read such? But I have had enough.

It begins on this date: 12 October 2004.

Modern Lysias