Fear of plummeting over the "fiscal cliff" is driving the political discourse in Washington right now. The conversation, however, needs to be framed not as a political or economic issue, but as a moral issue.
Morals arise from our values. They are personal, having to do with the people and environment in which we were raised and the experiences that shaped our growing up. As adults, our morals are still shifting and changing.
I'm inviting you to play a fabulous game I've devised. The rules are simple. I'm going to give you an imaginary shovel. And then I am going to present to you an imaginary table, upon which I'm going to place different sets of imaginary things, one of which you must smash with said shovel.
Where Romney talks morality (conservative style), Obama mainly talks policy. Where Romney reframes Obama, Obama does not reframe Romney. In fact, he reinforces Romney's frames by repeating Romney's language word for word -- without spelling out his own values explicitly.
Historically, American democracy is premised on the moral principle that citizens care about each other and that a robust Public is the way to act on that care. Who is the market economy for? All of us. Equally.
When you say what you are going to do in a situation, you are making your best guess about it. However, it is hard for you to simulate all of the other factors that are going to influence your behavior.
I learned long ago not to use God to justify my actions, to act like I'm superior to anyone else, or to rationalize my false need to control the lives of my fellow man and woman. Instead, I try my level best to cultivate my decency, and pray for other Americans to do the same.
Whenever a voter casts their vote for a candidate that will hurt their economic interests just because they are pro-life or anti-gay marriage they are on tilt -- just as if they lost some really ugly hand at the poker table.
Conservatives have spent generations accusing liberals of moral relativism and "anything goes" indulgence in their feelings or whims. But is a belief any less arbitrary of a foundation for the giving or taking away of people's rights?
Santorum and Dolan are at least right on one point. No one should be saying that religious people can't participate in the public square. The reality is, however, the public square has a cacophony of voices.
Last week we lost two great visionary leaders whose impact on the world has forever changed our lives. Yet, sadly, I think we missed the opportunity to make their contributions to society a real teachable moment for our children.
Because people hold sacred values to be absolute and inviolable, any symbolic "concession" must not appear to violate or weaken one's own sacred values. Doing so would likely be seen as forsaking core personal and social identity.