This post is a follow-up to the previous one about learning to talk TO each other instead of AT each other. I will begin with this warning: If you read this post, you will learn at least some of my political opinions. I will continue with this declaration: I have absolutely no intention of changing anyone’s political opinion! In the first place, that would be a lost cause. We build our opinions on what we see as important, and we tend to hold on to them fiercely. More importantly, to try to do so would be a mistake. If I could make everyone in the world think as I do, the world would be in at least as much a mess as it is now. I am a relatively intelligent person, but I, too, have emotional ties to my opinions that are not always rational. And because other people have had different experiences, their views and knowledge of the world have shown them things I have no concept of.
Given the above, I strongly believe it is a very good thing we do not all agree. I also believe that it is NOT a good thing that we do not always respect the opinions of others or defend their right to have them. So, rest assured that I am not dismissing any of the things I disagree with as unimportant and that I welcome any comments expressing your own opinions however much they differ from mine.
Okay. Here it is. And I hope that my true friends will stick by me even when they learn the truth. I have only voted for two presidents who were actually elected, so I am usually on the losing side of that election. But whoever is elected is still my president. I am a pretty progressive person. Actually, I probably fit in well with those who were referred to “back in the day” as “pinko-commie liberals.” No…I was never a Communist. Or a Socialist. I do believe it is very important that we, as a nation, contribute through our taxes to social programs that benefit the whole country and programs that benefit people who need extra help…like Public Schools, Medicaid, A strong national defense, Public roads and bridges, a postal service. These are things we probably would not have if they were not funded at least in part by the Federal Government. Feel free to offer suggestions for additions or subtractions to this list in a comment.
If any of my former Government students read this, they might remember our discussions about the Articles of Confederation which was the first basis for our national government. This document gave the national government the power to set taxes and declare war but not the power to force states to pay taxes or send soldiers to fight. Big surprise: by the mid 1780’s the federal government was broke and the country was in danger of falling apart. The United States weren’t very united. Fortunately, the Constitutional Convention (thanks in large part to James Madison) managed to write the Constitution and the country managed to ratify it. So we’re still here….and we are now the most powerful country in the world. But that doesn’t mean that life is all peachy-keen for all of our citizens.
I always say the Pledge of Allegiance at public events, but I don’t think we have ever had “liberty and justice for all. That bothers me. I think each and every one of us deserves the opportunity to be the best that we can be. We all deserve to be able to see a doctor when we need to, get an education that will take us as far as we can go in life, be able to afford a decent home to live in, and receive equal treatment from our government and its officials. And if the rights of one group can be dismissed by someone in “authority,” so can the rights of other groups. I truly believe that we are all in this boat together, and we can either row together or hold on and see where the rapids take us……and the only direction available is downstream.
The current political climate worries me. We don’t discuss ways to solve problems. We only seem to try to point the blame at the “other guy.” And when it comes to candidates, we often don’t have a lot of choice who ends up on the ballot. The most disturbing thing about last year’s election to me was that I heard the phrase “For the good of the Party” from both the Democratic and Republican Party officials. I thought the elections here were supposed to be “for the good of the people!” I don’t think I am alone in that feeling, because the two most popular candidates were Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump…both of whom were Party “Outsiders.” I will be honest with you; Bernie was my choice. I chose him because he wasn’t the typical politician and because the things he was campaigning on were the same issues he has been talking about for over thirty years. I think a lot of people voted for Mr. Trump for exactly the same reason, and I respect that.
I don’t think political opinions are the problem. I think the true problem is greed. Income inequality has spiraled out of control. While the bottom 90% of our country hold 73% of the debt, the top 1% control 90% of the wealth. With the cost of political advertising, legislators must raise huge sums to run for re-election. Under the terms of Citizens United, a corporation can donate an unlimited amount to the legislators who will vote for bills that promote the corporation’s interest. Whose interest will the legislator really vote for: the voters who elected him or her….or the lobbyist who funds the campaign? I can’t answer that for sure; I will leave it up to you. But I would like to see Citizens United overturned and lobbying made illegal. I would also like to see political advertising either banned or limited. Those negative ads are what people remember, and I hate to think we choose our legislators or president based on the negative ads places by the candidates opponent. And have you noticed how many billionaires are running for office now? Our governer (Illinois) is a billionaire, and, as I have heard, so is the man who has already begun campaigning against him. I also heard that the head of a huge Wall Street Bank who calls himself a “true” billionaire is thinking of running in the next presidential election.
I am part of the 99% and will probably always be so…barring winning the lottery. And I don’t mind that. I know I like the company here better than I would like hobnobbing with billionaires. But how do we make things better for ourselves and our families. I am not sure….but I think we had better pick up the paddles and start to work before we are swept into the rapids. A lot of you will not agree with my opinions or my selection of candidates (and by now you may well have guessed which two presidents I voted for who actually won), but I can’t think of any better people to have paddling with me. We just have to figure out which direction to go and work together to get there. I have my paddle ready. Who is with me?
Please, please, please feel free to reply, argue, or offer advice.