Blagg: Righting the ship of state
In the wake of President Obama’s annual State of the Union message, the usual litany of gripes and complaints has risen to a crescendo.
Folks from all political persuasions have griped and fumed and launched into rants about how terrible things are ... pointing out that Congress is deadlocked on even the simplest of questions, the president isn’t getting anything done, one politician after another is being indicted on corruption charges, our kids aren’t learning anything, etc., etc., etc.
And most of it has at least a germ of truth.
It’s hopeless, right?
I don’t think so.
First of all, most of these negative perceptions about the state of our nation are being fed by the voracious appetite of our news media for headlines, 24/7. Legions of Dacron-haired, botox-delined, TelePrompter-fed talking heads are yakking endlessly (and cluelessly) about this crisis, or that catastrophe or whatever, inflating ordinary events into big deals in a quest for ratings.
They don’t inform; they shout. They don’t put things into perspective; they distort them.
Admittedly, behind that endless torrent of bad news, there is some REAL bad news.
Congress IS deadlocked as individual representatives and senators vie for the endless amounts of money they need to run for re-election, too often setting aside what is good for the country and replacing that goal with unmitigated self interest.
Partisan politics DOES too often shove statesmanship aside. The income gap is widening, and there are many other issues that demand attention.
But we CAN do something about this. It’s not a hopeless situation, as some would have us believe.
But the road back toward the America we know and love is worth navigating, despite the fact that it won’t be easy, and it won’t be quickly accomplished.
Here’s what we can do:
1. Stay in constant contact with our elected representatives and make our feelings known. We are competing with well-funded vested interests here, so we need to use all means of communication, and use them often. Pound them ceaselessly with complaints, suggestions and demands. They work for US!
2. Refuse to vote for ANY politician, at any level, in any party, who won’t promise to make every effort to “cross the aisle” and work with members of the other party for the common good. And then monitor that person to make sure they honor that promise.
Partisanship — “we and they” attitudes and a refusal to compromise are poisonous to the proper running of a democracy. Too many of our elected representatives rail against “the other side” instead of trying to forge working relationships. They will be rebuffed, but MUST keep trying, and we need to insist they do so.
3. Extract a similar promise from candidates and incumbents to support all efforts to introduce and pass two amendments to the U.S. Constitution: To impose term limits on Congress and to do away with the odious “corporations are people” Supreme Court decision. These changes won’t guarantee a return to a working democracy, but they would go a long way toward putting us back on that right road. State governments and even the presidency have mandated term limits, and there is no reason that Congress shouldn’t have them, too. And treating corporations as “persons” has meant an enormous influx of money into the political system — a flood we need to stem.
4. Resist the temptation to automatically assume that all elected officials can’t be trusted. The fact is that most of them are honestly trying to do their jobs. Acting on the assumption that they are corrupt or biased can destroy a much-needed cooperative, community approach to making our cities and towns better places to live.
5. Try not to make debates about public policy into personal matters. It should be possible in almost every case to disagree about a matter while still respecting your opponents. Personal attacks have no place in civic debates, and they infect discourse with sometimes savage attacks that discourage many from getting involved.
6. Keep yourself informed, by reading The Recorder and other newspapers and avoiding most television news, particularly the cable channels except for NECN. Watch the BBC for another perspective on international affairs, and keep track of our delegations’ voting record through published vote records and the Internet.
All of this is not guaranteed to change things, but what is certain is that if we don’t make serious changes, soon, our nation’s future is increasingly uncertain.
Here’s a list of our congressional delegation and their email information. Addresses and phone numbers are available on their home pages or through their local offices:
Rep. Richard Neal, 1st. Dist.
Rep. Jim McGovern, 2nd. Dist.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
Blagg has been Editor of The Recorder since 1986. He lives in Greenfield and is a military historian with an interest in local history. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 250.