01/25/2009 02:09 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A New Contention

We're not even a week into the Obama Administration, and contention is already on the wax.

Senate Republicans are contending with Democratic appointees. A congressional leader is contending that he doesn't work for the President. The rightist press is contending that the stimulus package won't work. The leftist press is contending that torture by a former administration must be prosecuted. A doll company is even contending that their Sweet Sasha and Marvelous Malia dolls have little to do with the Obama girls.

I've reached the end of my very long, patient rope.

Stop already! Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop now.

America my country, even if the last eight years are our only excuse, we are addicted to contentiousness. We are used to being focused on what's wrong rather than what's right. I even read a blogger this week who complained about the Inaugural Poem and its Poet. Please!

A major part of the travesty of the Bush years was their divisiveness. In fact, I think the word "against" sums up that octet admirably. War on Terror, war on drugs, war on Iraq. Against, against, against. My fellow American, to coin a phrase, being against anything takes more energy than being for something. Consider the effort involved in using the brakes on a car vis-à-vis the gas.

All this contentiousness sent me scurrying to the OED, that rich determiner of meaning. The word contend comes from Latin roots which mean against stretching. Contention is exactly what we don't want for this administration or our next four years as a growing country. We've already had against stretching, and we can see clearly now where it has taken us. I will not rehearse those difficulties again.

What I will do, and am doing, is recommending a new contention for the United States of America. Without it, we will not have learned from our recent past and we will be doomed to repeat the spiritual lessons inherent in it. So try this on for a working premise for the Obama Administration and our country:

Let's contend that we're all in this together and that we're all on the same side and that, ultimately, we all want the same things. Peace, prosperity, opportunity, our needs fulfilled, and a measure of happiness.

Without question, there will be fiery discussions about how to get there. This is what it is to live with the guarantee of freedom. So what? Even those discussions don't have to be contentious, but they will continue to be so if we do not heal our addiction to against-ness.

So I'm asking: what are you for, and can you sustain your for-ness long enough, to get both the Obama Administration and our country where we all long to be?

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