With all Americans, we are subdued and saddened by the events in Newtown, Conn. It is likely that in this Christmas season, meant to be full of peace and joy, all of us will be a little more introspective, hold our loved ones a little closer and ponder life's deeper questions. We woefully lack profound answers, but offer our perspectives.
Despite heart-rending tragedies and continued frustrations with our national leaders, is there reason for hope this holiday season for Americans and Utahns?
Pignanelli: "Our government is founded upon the intelligence of the people. I for one do not despair of the republic. I have great confidence in the virtue of the great majority of the people, and I cannot fear the result." — Andrew Jackson. Americans are a compassionate and canny people. The recent tragedies in Connecticut and from superstorm5 Sandy (along with countless others) illustrate tremendous acts of courage and kindness by individuals. Americans always step up, oftentimes risking their lives, in behalf of their fellow countrymen.
Governmental uncertainty and cluelessness — which would cripple any other country — is an annoyance to Americans but they usually figure out a way to "wire around" unreasonable bureaucrats in order to be competitive in the marketplace. Washington dithers on the edge of a fiscal cliff, but Wall Street is healthy because of their inherent confidence in Americans.
Americans mock their leaders, worship and then abandon their celebrities and sports heroes, spend countless hours watching the problems of others on reality television — but when their neighbor needs help, they rush to the scene. Pollsters love to detail all the problems Americans have with their country and leaders. But down deep, Americans know we possess an inner strength to fight for our ideals and protect our beloved nation. Hope is a constant for us, because our heritage is one of success — despite the odds.
Webb: We should have great hope in our families, our faith, our neighborhoods and our local institutions. I certainly hope that Winston Churchill was right: that Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing — after they've exhausted all other possibilities. Certainly, America remains the greatest nation on earth with wonderful people in every community across the land. But the danger posed by out-of-control debt and spending is enormous and very real. No indication exists that our leaders have the political will to really solve the problems.
What things in life are more important than politics?
Pignanelli: Of course, my family and friends are the highest priority. But politics also takes a backseat to a great marinara sauce, a fine wine and a moving opera aria. It is easy to dismiss "elective politics" but politics in relationships exists inside our families, friends circles, offices and even within our religious organizations. We are social animals that will never escape politics (thank goodness).
Webb: We must elect good men and women to represent us in government. Politics is important in that respect. But government alone will never solve the complex problems facing society. That's because, for the most part, government focuses on the results and effects of society's ills, not on the root causes. Government applies bandages, but does not prevent disease. We obviously need good law enforcement and secure prisons, for example, but they won't prevent greed, anger, passion, selfishness, rebellion, addictive behavior or mental illness that are often the root causes of crime.
Therefore, many things are more important than politics: fathers and mothers devoted to each other and their children, loving grandparents, Sunday school teachers, Scoutmasters, caring neighbors, dedicated school teachers and the local institutions who support them. Government can never be big enough to solve all of society's problems, and too often it makes problems worse, not better.
Can there ever be peace on earth and goodwill toward men?
Pignanelli: The traditional Yuletide quest for peace on earth is millennia from achievement. Our history is a violent exchange between tribes and countries, which will not change any time in the near future. However, every day of human existence is better than the day before: We are conquering diseases, eliminating poverty, spreading technology and economic opportunity. It's slow going but we'll get there.
Webb: However difficult, we ought to never cease striving for the ideal of peace on earth. But it will never be fully achieved until the human race follows the precepts taught by the individual revered by Christians as the Prince of Peace, whose birthday we now celebrate. Even most non-Christians view Jesus Christ as a great moral teacher. If truly accepted and practiced, his teachings would literally revolutionize the world. War, violence and crime would disappear. Broken hearts would be mended. Poverty and hunger would be eradicated. Hatred, bigotry, greed and cheating would be gone. Fathers would accept their responsibilities. Families would stay together. Government would be a lot smaller, not needing to become the support system for individuals and families.
We may not be able to bring peace to the whole world. But we can bring peace to our own hearts and to our families. And if enough families have peace, then a neighborhood has peace. And a lot of peaceful neighborhoods mean a peaceful community. And enough peaceful communities mean peaceful states. And peaceful states mean peaceful nations. And, ultimately, we have a peaceful world.
Legislation, court decrees and presidential proclamations won't bring peace on earth. We can create it only from within, one heart at a time.
We wish each of you a Christmas of peace and love.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: email@example.com.