Square Peg & Round Hole

By Sarason D. Liebler | Aug 29, 2012

A metaphor is a pithy short phrase that allows one to quickly categorize a subject without providing a detailed framework of background information. Stretching a metaphor, expanding its obvious message, is workable, even helpful.

The metaphor, partially phrased in the title of this column, is common and frequently used to criticize an effort to solve a problem with an obviously wrong approach as in “it won’t work, as he is trying to shove a round peg into a square hole.” In stretching this metaphor I submit that our political system has been perverted by the stress of the times with the bases of both of our major parties making the mistake of looking to solve our country’s economic, social and international relations conundrums by shoving simplistic “sound bite” policy approaches into complex situations.

The Tea Party Republicans, the conservative base of the Republicans, urge a rigid formulary that must echo our very excellent Constitution, based upon what they consider as an all-seeing approach by our founding fathers. Problem is, as we face an ever-changing world, that our founding fathers could not possibly have envisioned in the mid 1700s, simple, straightforward extrapolation falls short.

Meanwhile on the left, the Democratic liberals and their progressive soothsayers take the position that more is better and as long as the government can give us “more” we will sail along on smooth seas no matter where the tides, currents and winds of change push us. The result is that our massive ship of state is approaching a rocky economic reef capable of ripping our bottom out.

What has caused this situation; what causes our diverse though still remarkably homogeneous population to form such seemingly diametrically opposed political groupings to overwhelm what has been a relatively cohesive population? It is a very complex question, especially when noting that the two extremes really have similar end goals: peace, prosperity, happiness for not only our country but for the world in general. The spirit of isolationism has been soundly disproved, yet many on both the left and right yearn for a simplistic solution that ignores the rest of the world's experience.

I emphasize the simplistic reasoning of both the left and the right. Why do they do this, are they stupid? Some, yes, but by no means all. I believe it is the natural state for most humans to seek and seize simple solutions to complex problems because it is the easiest path to follow that lets their inner angst subside to acceptable levels without help from tranquilizing pharmaceuticals.

Saying this, I must admit that a fair amount of people never calm their angst and a few end up fueling their angst by acting on it, think Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma and Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, as well as recent mass shooters in Tucson, Ariz., and Aurora, Colo.

The good news is, we have an important election for the presidency this coming November. The candidates on both sides have an opportunity to move the opposing parties towards each other.

The bad news is that with just three months to go, the candidates are pummeling each other while offering little constructive discourse as to what they plan to do either in domestic or foreign affairs. The pots are boiling in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, just to name a few problem sites. We have more than 8 percent unemployment, and Spain has close to 25 percent unemployment.

The chances of another recession or worse haunt this country and virtually all of Europe. The Federal Reserve Bank is preparing further stimulus (some form of printing money), and while the massive stimulus of the past four years may have been helpful in postponing falling off the economic precipice, it certainly has not worked as hoped.

A hope that I do see is that Mr. Romney has chosen Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. While people end up voting for a presidential candidate, the coupling of Romney and Ryan is a solid positive. Mr. Ryan is not the right-wing extremist the Democrats claim. In fact, neither party is running extremists, but Mr. Ryan brings an intellectual depth that has been missing from national politics for years. Equally important, he really understands the numbers. I am hopeful that his voice will move both presidential candidates into more meaningful debate and resurrect those that can be salvaged from both parties' extreme bases.

Neither square nor round pegs will open the locks to the country’s future equilibrium. The need is for a very complex key that can only be cut if both parties can move from their extreme base ideologies to a cohesive center.

Sarason D. Liebler lives in Liberty. He appears on this page every other week. He can be reached at plnfin@fairpoint.net.

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