Mixed Martial Arts and the Art of Public Discourse

by Jerry King

Mixed Martial Arts emerges to become a metaphor for our time. Policy discourse at the national level looks every day more like what happens in that octagonal cage where people slug, kick and pound their way to dominance by inflicting maximum injury and humiliation on their opponents. Except for a handful of civil and honest voices, debate in Congress and the media has become a matter of who can embarrass whom and which party voters will blame, more than of how a policy will benefit the people.  And in the meantime, in spite of ourselves we become accustomed to it all, expecting that our elected leadership will settle important matters of national policy by duking it out, more for public consumption than to advance good policy. 

I say we become accustomed to it, but that’s not true. Open your windows and you can almost hear the people crying out that surely this is no way to govern. In fact, it’s hard to see how these circumstances are sustainable; to see a path that will find our way from entrenched hostility to shared government and mutual respect.  So, we can ask whether the two-party system has a future.

That’s not to say that parties don’t matter; I believe they do. The historic, foundational and, yes, respectable principles of Republicans and Democrats form a basis for thoughtful dialogue concerning the requirements of democracy, the economy, income distribution, national security, size and role of government, individual liberty and much more.  Even so, whether or not the two-party system should survive, surely we need another perspective, an alternative way of sorting out what we believe about American principles and policy outside of prescribed party boundaries, and thereby to decide which candidates for office to support and for what policies to advocate.

Monday Memo readers may expect that for me the Earth Charter expresses that alternative perspective by helping me be clear that our governing and policy decisions need to respect the breadth of diversity locally and globally, equal access to opportunity, the integrity of the environment and urgency of matters of climate, the rights and dignity of animals, unfettered access to education and government – to respect our shared responsibility for each other. Those principles not only transcend party, I believe they represent the values of the broad swath of middle Americans.

Shannon Anderson