By: Shahab Moghadam

The dysfunction in Washington this past month has led me to reflect deeply about the very nature of American governance and the misguided premises on which it is based. Firstly, the sad reality is that both of our nation’s major political parties largely take their cues from special interests which use the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling to flood the political process with money, thereby drowning out the voices of the American people, who were always meant to be our country’s masters. As if that were not enough, we are seeing a continuation of the ages-old scourge of prejudice which, despite popular opinion, still exists in this nation, as can be seen in the statistics about the lack of opportunities provided to underprivileged communities and the resulting cycle of poverty which breeds crime and harms American prosperity. We are one nation, one people, and we sink or swim together, no matter whether we are rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight.

Furthermore, American foreign policy in the post-World War II era has been one based on the presumption that the United States has a moral obligation to enforce certain norms, a doctrine which was used by President George W. Bush and to a similarly large extent by his successor President Obama to justify forcing other nations to live similarly to the way we Americans live, without realizing that every nation has just as much a right as the United States does to sovereignty and security. That is not to downplay the achievements this nation has had in its relatively short history, which are indeed tremendously impressive, but at the same time it would be foolish to think that such achievements justify us exporting our values to nations which want to play by their own rules and norms. The key to promoting American values and showing the world who we really are is not through the example of our power, but through the power of our example, which we cannot do so long as the aforementioned cycle of poverty continues and the related issues of income inequality and economic despair remain prevalent.

Thus, all the major issues facing our nation are interrelated and we as a nation can play around with partisan preferences all we want but until we attack the problem at its roots, we will remain below our full potential as a nation.

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