The debate over the debt ceiling is only the beginning. The next year will quite possibly be one of the most controversial and heated political climates in modern American history.
The reelection campaign of our nation's first African-American president will coincide with a period of high economic stress and unemployment. In addition to the widening prosperity gap between the rich and middle-class, the proper role of the federal government, immigration, climate change and gay marriage are sure to be central issues of the 2012 election.
Although the toxic political discourse that has plagued American politics for the last two years may not end any time soon, we cannot afford to suffer through such continued hatred and division; it is simply too expensive. As Lincoln once proclaimed, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
It is unlikely that in the near future the Tea Party will embrace higher taxes on the wealthy or that Progressives will welcome cuts to safety-nets like Social Security or Medicare. However, the ability to compromise in efforts to drive towards greater objectives and goals is one of the fundamental reasons why the American people have hired a Congress to lead the nation rather than co-sign to a dictatorship.
Although our political disagreements are essential to our democracy, they cannot be allowed to lead towards violence. And that, sadly, is exactly where we may be headed.
The terrorist attack in Norway is just the latest in a long line of tragic and heinous acts of murder for the means of creating a political statement. A homegrown terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik is another reminder that neither race nor creed can prescribe the impetus for hate rather than extremism and misguidance.
The very same misguidance that leads some to accomplish violence can also be found in the aftermath of violence.
On Monday, a bomb threat was called in at the office of conservative activist Grover Norquist. Immediately, folks that I usually tend to agree with began labeling the threat of violence as a planned "hoax" or "black-ops" to take the attention away from Norway's tragedy.
How deranged have we become? How detached from humanity are we to think not of the basic safety of our human opponents, but rather the capitation of our political opportunities?
Taking advantage of catastrophic death in order to score cheap political points, in light of the fact that proponents of your belief have committed fewer acts or terrorism or mass-murder, is a symptom of the very disease that leads to such acts.
The next year and a half will be difficult enough without the petty name-calling and accusations. It will be difficult enough without the hidden-camera stings on organizations like ACORN or Planned Parenthood. It will be difficult enough without the colorful antics.
There has been little progress lately on the drastically important issues relating to American life, including immigration reform and climate change. This may be due to our elected officials fear to upset their core constituencies amidst the thick layer of angst. Courage will be fundamental for our nations leaders to show respect for colleagues on the other side.
Every day we live amongst one other and usually get along, but lately the labels have taken over. Our opponents are no longer human to us, they are villains with the most corrupt of motives.
We are not a nation of "racist teabaggers" or "weak-kneed treehuggers." We are relatives, neighbors, friends, coaches, teachers, firefighters, cops, nurses, janitors, businessmen, and children at summer camp.
Political and cultural progress has never been ushered in by those who took something from others, whether it was civil rights or the rights of life itself. Progress comes from those who are willing and able to sacrifice for their cause; to suffer for what they believe in. Those who starved themselves on hunger strikes, or sat-in at lunch-counters, or marched into fire-hoses, or lived in exile, or in political prison.
As we take on the critical issues of our "stormy present," we must remember that we'll accomplish more by inspiring others through goal orientated self-sacrifice rather than self-fulfilling punishment of others.