By DON VOWELL
Our rule around here is, if you read it on the Internet it is true. The Internet says that if you tell someone your New Year’s resolutions, the resultant sense of accountability helps you feel obliged to keep them. In that spirit I suggest that we share a national New Year’s resolution. Let’s resolve to govern ourselves this year.
Tom Brokaw famously wrote about the Greatest Generation,which was, generally speaking, my parents’ generation. America, through the sacrifices of these men and women, saw its greatest sustained middle class growth ever in wealth, industry, and sheer numbers.
If Mr. Brokaw is still writing in 20 years I wonder how he’ll title a book about my generation, remembered for allowing the country’s infrastructure to crumble, amassing crippling debt, tolerating a dysfunctional Congress, ignoring climate catastrophe, and spending most of its energy looking for somebody else to pay the bills.
To make a national resolution I suppose we would all have to agree on something. That seems impossible, but we seem to all agree that America needs change, and that it will not come from this Congress.
There are a number of ways for a nation’s citizens to gain control of their government. Revolution is the one that works fastest.
Revolution does not have to mean a bloody battle for control. The Civil rights movement changed America. The anti-war movement changed America. Congress had to act when they could no longer safely ignore the will of the people.
To make the will of the people known we need noise. A great skill in making noise gets you a disproportionate voice in policy-making. That explains why the Tea Party can paralyze the House of Representatives and why the NRA gets to set gun policy. Being loud is better than being a majority. We that are nearer the center outnumber those at the fringe and must make ourselves heard.
If noise is another word for free speech, then you also need cash. Since the Supreme Court has decided that money is free speech, it has followed that lack of money equals silence. As the size of your campaign donations grow, your Legislator’s hearing seems to improve.
Our traditional way of governing ourselves has been choosing our own leaders by means of free elections. Even that seems to be part of our paralysis. By believing change can only come through choosing the most extreme candidates, we have filled Washington, D.C. with people incapable of compromise, civility, or cooperation.
As usual, I have no remedies to offer. The ship of state is taking on water and we need to start bailing. Everybody has to pitch in. Social Security has to give a little. Medicare has to give a little. Defense has to give a little. Taxpayers have to give a little. We all know it. Even our government knows it. But they don’t know that we know it, or don’t believe that we will hold them accountable. Your ideas for change are probably better than mine. It is enough that we all demand change. Resolve to be heard.
(Don Vowell lives in Keizer.)Print