Category Archives: government

Thank You for Your Apology

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Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past.

~Tryon Edwards~

The day after the recent presidential election, I ventured out the door after a period of being stunned. I ran into a man I knew on a limited social basis. As usual, he asked how I was doing that day. I told him I was not doing very well. His very upbeat demeanor told me we had voted for different candidates.

We tried having a conversation about politics and in particular the election, both voicing our reasons for voting the way we did. I don’t think the conversation resolved anything or led either of us to alter his views.  I left his company resolving to be cordial in the future but to avoid political conversation which only served to upset both of us.

This has worked for several weeks. This morning when we met, he surprised me by apologizing for being overly strong in his statements in our last conversation of any length or consequence. I tried to recall whether I had said anything which might have offended him and apologized myself just in case. He assured me that I had not said anything to offend him and again apologized for his tone in the last conversation.

We were able to agree that the campaign and election were upsetting for everyone including both of us. We also agreed on being upset and worried about the great divide between the two halves of our fellow countrymen. We shared our fears about what this conflict would mean for the future of our country.

As I left our conversation, I felt the best I have since the election. Neither of us changed our minds, and did not try to change each other’s. We were able to share our mutual fears and hopes for the future. I realized that I do not need to see everyone with whom I disagree as an enemy.

Most of us want the best for our country and for each other. We just have different ideas about how to get there. At one time our leaders with different positions were able to sit down to find compromises with which we could all live. This does not seem to be the case right now. However, if we who elected them can talk with each other in the interest of our mutual benefit, we might be able to set a good example for our elected leaders. None of us can single-handedly change the tensions, disagreements, and hostility evident among our country’s citizens. Yet we can begin by building bridges between ourselves and those with whom we come into contact on a daily basis. That is at least a start.

Life Lab Lessons

  • If you are angry when you discuss politics, why do you think that is?
  • Look further to see what other feelings you might have?
  • Is fear one of them?
  • What do you fear?
  • Is it easier to discuss your fears with others than your anger?

Why do we need government anyway?

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Why do we need government anyway? It seems we argue about how government should be – smaller if Republican, bigger for Democrats – but we seem to ignore the greater question about the need for government in the first place. History and philosophy provide some of the answers.

The deeper question about the need for government goes back to differing concepts of human nature. Is it capable of great virtue and concern for the common good as the Greeks and Romans believed, or is it as Thomas Hobbes described it in his book “Leviathan”: “For amongst masterless men there is perpetual war, every man against his neighbor”?

Excerpt from Rich Elfers’ article in the Courier Harald- Read more

Rediscovering Our Protective Instincts

Give my your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

~Emma Lazarus~

I sat around a campfire with friends and family on the Fourth of July. Several young adults playfully wrestled and poked each other, posing fiercely but still laughing and intending no harm. Bear, one of the dogs present at the fire, jumped up each time one of them moved, ready to defend the person he saw at a disadvantage.

I thought of the protective instinct visible in many pack animals. Humans are known to have this instinct too, although we usually think of it as a maternal instinct instead of one including men. I also thought of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor which so many of the immigrants to the United States passed as they entered our country for the first time.

The saying suggests that we see ourselves as a refuge for the downtrodden and a place of refuge for the oppressed. Even if we didn’t always welcome every refugee with open arms, we have used our vast resources to help people around the world in their struggles with poverty, hunger and oppression. Over the past century, we came to see ourselves as the world’s savior. Those we wanted to help have not always seen us the way we see ourselves. To them, it might look like we see our way of life as ideal for everyone and want to impose it on the rest of the world.

For this reason among others, we have come to be seen as a threat to long-established cultures and traditions. Despite our high opinion of ourselves, an honest appraisal will help us realize that we have not always done a great job at home welcoming newcomers or even those who were here before us. Consider the way we treated Native Americans, our history of slavery and lingering racial hatred, our treatment of women and of those with differing sexual orientations or identity.

I’m not suggesting we have done no good in the world. I just think we could do better. Where to start? I think we need to begin in our own hearts. When we are successful, we tend to become smug and think we are better than anyone else. We also see others as jealous of what we have and tend to protect ourselves from those who want what we have. Consider our nuclear arsenal and attempts to build a fence around our country tall enough to keep others out. Immigrants tend to be seen as threats to our wealth and power. We forget that the great majority of us came here as immigrants or are descendants of immigrants. We were all newcomers once.

We need to remember that it’s not just outsiders who are struggling. Plenty of people within our borders struggle for enough food to feed their children and to find a respectable job. We have work to do at home too. Let’s get busy.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Be humble and don’t gloat over your good fortune.
  • Be thankful for what you have.
  • Consider ways to share your good fortune with others.
  • Help others find the opportunities you had.
  • Celebrate others’ good fortune.

 

 

Who’s the Third World Country Now?

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Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery
 to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

~Pope Francis~

We as Americans like to think of ourselves as a world leader among nations. We are leaders in the areas of power and technology. We had a large part in winning critical wars in the past century. We also put the first man on the moon. But are power and technology enough to make us a great nation? Perhaps not. We have a few things to fix about our society before we can brag about it.

Let’s start with our federal government. A Gallup poll in mid-June of 2015 shows a 30 % confidence level in the supreme court, a 29% confidence in the presidency and 7% confidence level in congress. We elected most of the people in whom we now have so little confidence. The others were appointed by those we elected. What does that say about us as voters? We have given up control of our elections and placed people in power who have the money to support their campaigns and cajole us into electing them.

Another issue is our lack of reverence for life. Of the 195 countries affiliated with the United Nations, only 36 retain the death penalty. Of these countries, we have the fifth highest rate of execution. We may feel better taking revenge on individuals guilty of the most serious crimes, yet states with no death penalty have no higher crime rates that states which do. What does a national policy of executing its citizens say about our reverence for life? What example do we set for those among us intent on violence?

With all our talk about sacredness of the family, we are the only country in the western hemisphere with no national maternity leave policy. A few countries have started offering paternity leave for new fathers. We are among the many nations with no such policy. Early studies show that fathers do a better job fathering when they have time after childbirth to bond with their children.

After our start as a country accepting slavery, we fought a civil war largely over this issue and passed a series of laws over the years outlawing slavery and its effects. Yet racism is still at the core of the beliefs many of us still hold and operate by. We banished the Native Americans to reservations and denigrated each new wave of immigrants whether they came here willingly or as slaves.

These are a few examples. It seems we are not as civilized as we thought we were and still have some work to do. We need to find ways of working together rather than against each other. It’s not an easy task or we might have done it by now. Start asking questions of yourself and of your fellow citizens.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Look into your heart.
  • Is there room for anyone else besides you?
  • What are you willing to do to make this “our” rather than “your” country?
  • Find out how you can take responsibility.
  • See yourself as a shepherd rather than a sheep.

 

How to Earn Respect as Voters

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.
~Franklin D. Roosevelt~

 

A recent opinion in a letter to the editor stated that politicians should respect voters’ intelligence. This seems to be a fairly common theme in political opinion writing these days. I have wondered lately whether we as voters deserve respect for our intelligence.

Complaining about our elected representatives and officials is also quite common these days. A telephone survey in May, 2015 found that just eighteen percent of voters think most members of Congress care what their constituents think. If they are so out of touch, where did these officials come from? We elected them of course. Well, the fifty-five percent of voters who showed up at the polls did.

So what’s the problem here? Why do we keep electing people who don’t care what we think? What are we thinking when we vote for them? Are we thinking about whether they are willing to work together for the common good? Or do we vote based on our fears or self interest? Some of us don’t bother to vote at all.

When you read what goes on in congress and what happens in our society, you might not find a great deal of difference.  Most of the time congress is in deadlock over just about every issue. Congress reflects the conflicting views and interests we see in society. We find ourselves pitted against each other on just about every issue you can think of. It is no wonder that congress reflects our society. Do you like living this way and being led this way?

I don’t either. Our nation started with a common ideal. We wanted a country in which our citizens could pursue their own happiness without restriction on our free speech or religious views. Although this was the goal, our founding fathers were not perfect. They forgot that everyone is human and convinced themselves that slavery was acceptable.

In more recent times, we came to see the pursuit of happiness as a way to get what we want without regard to the implications for our fellow citizens. Everyone for themselves. We have become short-sighted and selfish in many regards.

When we don’t consider others’ needs, getting what we want just makes them envious and leads to class wars as well as individual skirmishes. I don’t suggest that we can all agree on everything we think, say and do. Then we would be robots. But I think there is a way out.

Imagine living in a nation in which we can again see each other as brothers and sisters. Would you let your family starve or struggle or would you help them to the extent you can? That is the choice we have. We can continue growing more selfish or we can take each others’ needs into account as well as our own.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Think about what you need and what you merely want.
  • Use you eyes and ears to discover what others want.
  • What are you willing to sacrifice to help others with their needs?
  • How can you share what you have?
  • Vote and engage your conscience when you do.