Since the death of Michael Brown Jr. last year, this country has seen wide spread demonstrations, violence, and social discord unlike anything we have seen since the Vietnam era. What began as a racially framed argument has evolved into much more than something as simple as black and white and unless we explore deeper than the racial element, we will see much worse than what we have witnessed from Ferguson or Baltimore. Throughout all of this, I believe there are five truths that stand out and are just a fraction of what needs to change if we, as a nation, are ever going to mend and move forward.
LOCAL POLITICS MATTER MOST: Most of us know far too much about who is running for president and far too little about those running for city council or the school board. When a local problem rises to a national level like we saw happen in Ferguson and Baltimore, it is the end result of years, perhaps even decades, of local neglect and corruption. Kickbacks, quid pro quo, and political favors are far more likely to go unreported and undetected at the local level by citizens or the media. Simply put, most of us fail to view local politics in the same regard as we do national politics and fail to realize our locally elected leaders have far greater influence on our lives than whoever sits in the Oval Office. It is time the voting public take more interest and demand more information about who their local politicians are and who they are in bed with politically.
If you look at politicians as nothing more than potential cancerous growths, it is better for our long term health to stop them in their formative stages, the local level, than to think they will solve our problems when they have grown into becoming part of a national malignancy.
POPULISM IS NOT THE ANSWER: When I saw Hillary Clinton speak about how she wants to see all cops in the country equipped with body cameras, I swear I could see dollar signs in her eyes as she thought of all the money the angry public was going to donate to her campaign. It’s always easy to tell the voting public what they want to hear, especially during a time of despair, but the truth is populism is why nothing gets done. The primary problem with a populist message is it is always a reactionary message. It merely requires a candidate to gauge which direction the wind is blowing before they open their mouths to speak. Unfortunately, giving people what they want is not the same as giving them what they need.
When a parent gives their child candy every time he asks for it because they don’t want to upset their child, they end up creating a monster. Sure, the kid is momentarily happy but their satisfaction will wear off and eventually they will want more than just a piece of candy.
In the long run, does this method of parenting create a better person? Politics is no different except for the fact most elected officials want to get reelected. A good parent can live with their kid not liking them for not giving into their wants because they are not up for reelection. But when politicians care more about getting reelected than doing what is in the best interest of those they serve, they become increasingly tied to a populist agenda and have to cross their fingers there are no major crisis’ that arise on their watch.
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS HURTING THIS NATION: When people do not like the use of a word, it is generally a good idea to know what the word means before complaining about it. Case in point, the word “Thug.” To see and hear people complain about the use of this word by our president and the media when it is being correctly used demonstrates just how much political correctness has negatively influenced our lives.
We have morphed into a society where any group can complain about the use of any word or phrase and then unfairly label the users of those words as racists, haters, or bigots. This has to stop. Like it or not, we have free speech in this country and when people correctly use a term like “Thug” to describe another group who are looting, burning, and destroying a city, there is nothing wrong with it. To try and make the national debate over the use of such a word while a city burns is a joke and demonstrates how the “protesters” really do not know what it is they are protesting about.
Yes, political correctness has done a great job of ridding much of this nation of some of the uglier and derogatory terms that we once used, but today, it has given far too much voice to the stupid (And yes, I know that is a politically incorrect remark and I do not give a damn if it angers the stupid).
THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT RACE: The complaint in Ferguson was centered around a predominantly black community being governed by white elected leaders and policed by an almost all white police force. However, in Baltimore, where the mayor is black and the police chief is too, this is not the case. And yet, in both cases a black male is dead as a result of a police incident. Protests have followed and chants like, “Black lives matter,” have been heard nation wide but who or what is really to blame? Even media giants like CNN have had to admit the similarity in response to Ferguson and Baltimore go beyond race.
Young and old and people of all color are demonstrating TOGETHER. It is time to admit the economic and social problems that have hit Ferguson and Baltimore are every bit as frustrating to Americans of all races. The social reaction, if anything, is more a reflection of how a person is raised to react and respect authority and less about their skin color.
THINK FOR YOURSELF: Much of what I have seen unfold is the result of our own personal laziness and failure to see the world beyond ourselves. Americans have reached a point where they have allowed others to think for them because we can’t be bothered to think for ourselves. This has allowed it to become easier for the media to simply frame what are actually complex issues because after all, who has time to study them? Instead, we turn to others we can “trust” to think for us.
Maybe we turn to the “most trusted source” for news or maybe a “nerdy” colleague we assume knows more than us. Maybe we decide based on the appearance of the “messenger,” their title, their religious affiliation, or the political party they represent. What too many of us don’t do is examine the issues from a variety of perspectives nearly as much as we do our latest phone app or electronic gadget. This only plays into the hands of those who prefer the public remain uninformed and easily manipulated. Now, ask yourself, “Who are these people?”
This nation has plenty of work to do if we are going to keep from imploding. There are no quick fixes to what ails this country and we need to be willing to hear leaders tell us some cold hard truths that may be difficult to accept. We may be required to make some sacrifices we might not want to make but need to make for the good of all.
And we may have to admit each of us has been part of the problem while also realizing each of us is part of the solution. Americans have never been one to back down from a challenge and we pride ourselves for our willingness to out work others. If we rely on this past while we honestly examine the present, there is no need for any of us to fear the future. A new and better America is out there if we are all willing to work for it.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.