We’re all a shade of purple

There is an old Jewish fable set in Tsarist Russia. A peasant is walking on a muddy road going from Pinsk to Minsk. The peasant meets another wayfarer and asks, “What are the people in Minsk like?” The wayfarer responds, “What are the people in Pinsk like?” The peasant says, “They are mean.” The wayfarer responds, “The people in Minsk are mean also.”

A short while later the wayfarer meets another peasant walking from Pinsk to Minsk. The peasant asks the same question, “What are the people in Minsk like?” The wayfarer asks the peasant, “What are the people in Pinsk like?” Oh, the peasant replies, “They are very kind.” The wayfarer responds, “The people in Minsk are very kind also.”

We all have personal biases and values, which influence our perceptions of reality and other people. Unfortunately, without an open mind and critical thinking, our perceptions may be plain wrong in many instances. I include myself in any criticisms I make. Local, state, and national problems will not be solved or alleviated if one believes in the absolute infallibility of positions held by either political party or oneself.

The following is a summary of what I have heard and read about both parties this past year. Democrats are very kind people interested in helping the poor, elderly, sick, women, unemployed, and the hungry. They believe that government can solve most problems and support the idea that society should provide a safety net for the unfortunate and destitute.

On the other hand, Democrats are, basically, socialists, who are bankrupting the country and will be saddling future generations with massive debt. They are indifferent to issues of moral hazard, and their policies are encouraging people not to work and become dependent on the government. Democrats support higher taxation and increased governmental regulation, which will limit economic growth. They are encouraging development of a “nanny state” which leads to an ever growing government, a leviathan crushing individual liberty and initiative.

What are Republicans? They see themselves as supporters of the American way of life based on individuals and not government solving problems. They believe that governmental solutions to society’s problems will make situations worse. American businesses, if unfettered by restrictive regulations, laws, and excessive taxation, will help all Americans lead a better way of life. They believe in personal liberties.

Opponents of Republicans see them as worshipers of a financial Moloch where the American people are sacrificed to corporate gods in the interest of profits, greed, and money. They have no morally redeeming features because Republicans are selfish individuals who believe in a Social Darwinian world of survival of the fittest. They are hypocrites who say they support individual rights but desire to regulate your love life.

Now which view of Democrats and Republicans is correct? I think they are both right and both wrong. Democrats do favor governmental solutions and Republicans do not. During the 19th century three forms of socialism developed: utopian socialism like the Shakers, Marxian socalism, i.e., communism, and democratic socialism. The Democratic Party is an outgrowth of the latter.

The Republican Party is hostile to governmental action except when it aids business. Republicans may curse Democrats as being socialist when they leave New Hampshire’s communist liquor stores, i.e., they are owned by the state.

Overall, neither Republicans nor Democrats are evil people. Neither has a monopoly on truth. A person’s character should not be judged on the basis of his/her political and economic beliefs except if they are an extremist. I define an extremist as someone who would be willing to use violence against innocent people, e.g. a member of the Aryan Nation, the KKK, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, I also judge people unfavorably if they are bigots and anti-Semites.

Nevertheless, one should not have an unfavorable view of a person because he/she is a Democrat or Republican. Demonizing of either party is bad for the nation. You can be friends with people who have different views. I have certainly learned from people who do not agree with me on everything. One should try to weigh each issue carefully, factually, not emotionally, and to maintain an open mind. Charlie Eicher, a Jaffrey-Rindge school board member, is a superb example of such a person.

State Representative Susan Emerson of Rindge and Fiitzwilliam is an example of a person who combines the best elements of Republicans and Democrats — belief in limited government while preserving a safety net for society’s most unfortunate.

Fortunately, we have elections. There are two contradictory sayings: “The voice of the people is the voice of God” and “Democracy is when the people get what they deserve and they get it good and hard.” I do not know which saying is correct. It may depend on the time and circumstances. But as Tricia Saenger of Temple wrote in a perceptive letter to this paper about two years ago, the ultimate responsibility for America is in the hands of the voters who elect politicians who solve, make worse, or do nothing about our nation’s problems.

We are a better nation because we have two political parties. No one reading this would ever want to live in a nation with only one political party.

Rick Sirvint lives in Rindge.

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