Monday, June 29, 2009


I am breaking one of my sacred rules. Talking politics. I avoid politics, I think my grandfather, Opa, had the same temperament. There was no talk of his political life before immigrating to America and I don’t know anything about his views. The only memory I have of his political views was seeing him on the verge of tears when President Kennedy died.

Politics and environmentalism have had a long affiliation. I am an environmentalist. You wouldn’t want your home, that sat on the bottom of a hill for over eighty years undisturbed, washed into the river because a developer bent the rules and built a development on a slope above it that caused a collapse of the entire hillside when heavier rains than usual arrived. Those that chain themselves to trees and protest the bulldozing of entire tracts of land bring attention to the problem, but no solution. Those that harvest trees and denude the area of natural vegetation have those chained to the trees arrested, but offer no solution. It is a vicious cycle. Both sides lose.

In the environmental community and the development community, there are now some looking for a middle ground. They are communicating, sitting down together, and working on solutions. It is not about winning and both sides now realize that working together is a benefit. If you follow the rules, I believe that there is always a political middle ground that meets the needs of both sides.

I have been receiving messages from friends in the South about Obama and his politics that border on hate mail. These anti-Obama messages are unbelievable. Unbelievable to me that, in this day and age, that there are those who never will see the forest because of the trees. There is a naïve, almost childlike tone to these messages. I am concerned, these messages seem to try and divide us. We don’t need less government and we don’t need more government. We need a government that is for the people, by the people, and of the people. Yes, it is a cliché. But government has forgotten that the people and the government were formed as a partnership. Obama does have the skills to be a good president. Obama was not my first choice, however he will be a good president, as good as we make him. In this day and age, our presidents don’t preside, they are project managers. It is up to us to make sure that our representatives in Congress carry our message to Washington. It is up to all of us to stop taking sides and to sit down and look for common ground and work on solutions.

Solutions must have eluded Opa. My brother has always puzzled about why Opa and Oma left Europe late, just before the WW II implosion, and lost most of their wealth. They left Eger,Czech in October of 1938. Relatives and friends immigrated much earlier and seemed, monetarily, to be in a much better position than Opa and Oma. I can only speculate. Staying until it was almost impossible to leave may have been fueled by the political climate in Sudetenland.

Sudetenland was a historical region of the northern Czech Republic along the Polish border. Long inhabited by ethnic Germans, it was seized by the Nazis in September 1938 and was restored to Czechoslovakia in 1945, after which the German population was expelled. Formerly part of Austria, the predominantly German-speaking area was incorporated into Czechoslovakia after World War I. Discontent among the Sudeten Germans was exploited in the mid-1930s by the Nazi Party and its local leader Konrad Henlein. The inflammatory situation convinced Britain and France that, to avoid war, Czechoslovakia must be persuaded to give the region autonomy. Adolf Hitler's demand that the region be ceded to Germany was initially rejected, but the cession was later accomplished by the Munich agreement. After World War II the region was restored to Czechoslovakia, which expelled its German inhabitants and repopulated the area with Czechs. Just politics?

We have political opportunities given to us by enlightened men who founded this nation. As a “closet” German Jew, I can only imagine what Opa thought while watching, from America, his Sudeten homeland disintegrate. In 1940, the family made it to America and were safe with relatives, and after the war, there were no longer any political solutions and no chance to ever return home.

Immigrants made America a melting pot of cultures and races. George Washington's financial advisor and assistant was a Jewish man named Hayim Solomon. Hayim loaned a lot of his own funds to the cause. He is considered the financial hero of the Revolution. In 1783, after the war, a fraction of the money was actually repaid. Practicing Episcopalian Alexander Hamilton has at least half-Jewish in his ancestry. If we count Deism (and Unitarianism), there were some big names among the non-Christians -- Tom Paine, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. The anti-Obama messages being sent to me hint of the man not being suitable for office because of his familiarity with Muslim culture, because he isn’t Christian enough to lead this nation. I could quote some scripture here, but I am on a political quest.

Our founding fathers gave us the political tools to develop solutions. How do we get our government back to the fundamentals? How do we make people see how far away from the principles that defined the beginning of this democracy we have come and to sit down together to look for solutions?

No comments:

Post a Comment