From Ash Wednesday to the Saturday before Easter, Roman Catholics around the globe and many other Christians begin a spiritual introspection.
These forty days before Easter are called Lent. Catholics examine their relationship with Divine Providence and their fellow human beings.
Lent forces believers to confront their weakness, make amends, correct their lives, and to reflect on how to proceed.
The forty days reflect Biblical stories.
Jonah was in the whale for forty days.
The ancient Hebrews spent forty years in the desert before reaching the Promised Land.
Christ spent forty days in the desert before he began his ministry.
Ramadan is also a religious period when people of the Muslim faith spend forty days reflecting on their spiritual health.
It may be appropriate for nations to have forty days of political, social, and economic introspection. We should impose a national political Lent forcing all American citizens to reflect on the direction the country is taking. We need to confront our political weaknesses, make amends for our errors, correct our mistakes, and reflect on how to proceed. Television, radio, and other media would concentrate on the major political, social, and economic issues facing the nation. It would be refreshing not to see, listen, and read about celebrity award shows, the sex lives of dead gangsters, the pregnancies of major and minor celebrities, and sport team rivalries.
Political pundits are discussing the consequences of the congressional mid-term election that will be held this year.
Some are claiming these elections will be a referendum on the lame duck president's policies. At this time, Bush 2 is having difficulties because of his lame duck status and because of the state of the war in Iraq, economic uncertainties, his handling of the Dubai port agreement, and the relief efforts in the Gulf region.
Both major political parties appear weak and ineffective.
There appears that the Democrats and Republican have no consistent and clear message on the problems facing the nation.
A political lent can be a nationwide debate on the issues of confronting terrorism, safeguarding civil liberties, ensuring a decent retirement system, meeting the challenges of globalization, securing our borders and having a humane system of immigrant entry, establishing an effective educational system for our youth, reforming our health care delivery system, workplace safety issues, and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society- our children, elderly, poor and ill.
We need to debate on how to proceed in restoring the devastated Gulf region and especially New Orleans. Our nation needs to confront the economic and social effects of ever growing reliance on foreign capital to support our standard of living.
Do we want foreign powers and companies to have power and control of our ports, airports, electric, gas, and water supplies?
A British company is seeking to buy KeySpan and another operates the Indianapolis airport.
The Progressive has written in many previous columns about our lack of national concern for the needs of abandoned and abused children. Increasingly, many politicians and prosecutors are advocating the harsh sentencing of juveniles involved in criminal activity. In New Mexico, a judge decided to sentenced a juvenile (14 years of age) to an adolescent rehabilitation center and not to a life term in an adult prison as desired by the prosecution. The youngster was an abused child and convicted of killing his parents and stepsister. Daniel Leddy, a judge and in the Law column of the Staten Island Advance of February 28, 2006 wrote: "Judge Counts' decision was facilitated by New Mexico law under which a child cannot be sentenced to an adult prison unless the prosecutor proves that the youngster is not amenable to the rehabilitation in a juvenile facility." This nation needs to balance the tough on crime stance of society's leaders with compassion and belief in juvenile redemption. Shakespeare spoke on mercy in his play the Merchant of Venice. A moral nation does not imprison its youth.
Our political Lent should reflect on the corrosion of our economic life. Corporate greed, corruption, and cronyism at the highest levels of government are now threatening the fundamental basis of social cohesion. John Boyle, a former chief executive of the Vanguard mutual fund group is a staunch defender of capitalism and free markers. He wrote a book called "The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism." He proposes a variety of reforms to overcome market deficiencies such as performance-based compensation for executives; better corporate governance; improved accounting standards; a return to a long-term goal and focus rather than quick returns, and a clear separation of ownership from management. Raymond Baker wrote a book "Capitalism Achilles Heel." A guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, Mr. Barker draws attention to problems such as bribery, money laundering (that can also finance international and domestic terrorist groups), tax evasion, and income inequality.
All of the above mentioned are systematic to the feeling most Americans have of an environment that is hostile to honest working citizens. We must demand ethical behavior in all levels of political and economic life. I propose a 40 day political Lent before the Mid-Term elections begin. It is the time for political introspection.