To begin the dialogue, I will describe the critical issue, as I understand it. I have an opinion based on my understanding. But my understanding of the issue may be wrong, and my solution could be wrong even if I understand the issue. I do know that by sharing ideas, concerns and opinions with each other, we can develop new approaches to solving our problems.
In some instances, I have significant experience and will present specific examples from this experience to explain my views. I also have opinions based on reading and listening to the opinions of others based on their observations, analysis and experience.
Even if you don’t have the experience or the education, your participation in discussion of the issues is critical. Sometimes education and experience actually create barriers to offering a new approach, a new understanding, or a new insight into an issue: i.e.- “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”
Political parties are now gridlocked on solving critical issues, especially on those issues that may impact negatively on partisan power.
It is easier to do nothing rather than risk offending a potential voter.
This is why we can no longer leave it to politicians to solve these problems. They cannot make the tough decisions. They can’t even make easy decisions.
Concerned citizens of every party affiliation, every age group, students, retirees, males and females, employees and employers, union members, and non-union members, government workers, military personnel, doctors, lawyers, teachers, ministers, and people of every race and religion are going to have to make it happen.
It won’t happen without an Impolite Dinner Conversation… talking about sensitive issues and making the effort to completely understand everything about an issue before suggestions are made to solve the issue.
Even if we agree on what issues are important, and we thoroughly analyze each one, and we achieve consensus on solutions, what do we do next?
We can reach out to others and ask them to form discussion groups. Ultimately, my hope is that we can enlist millions of voters to our common cause. Then we can present our consensus to politicians of both political parties and demand that they act, or be replaced.
When I was growing up, politics and religion were topics that my parents warned me not to discuss…not with friends, and certainly not with strangers. My mother and father knew that most people could not discuss these issues rationally. Good friends discussing religion and politics with good friends of opposing views would almost always wind up in an argument that could not be won.
This was good advice in the 1950s and 1960s for a Catholic boy growing up in a small, rural Protestant town in Southwest Virginia.
I had an ideal start in life. I wasn’t born rich, but I was born rich in opportunity. Several conditions were key to having this opportunity:
I was born in the United States of America.
I was blessed with good health, safe streets, a drug-free environment, and great public school teachers who loved their work.
I was blessed with a mother and father who provided love, discipline and encouragement. They set a positive example for me in many ways: what was right and what was wrong; the importance of respecting other people; the importance of keeping your word; the importance of education; the importance of reading [especially the newspaper] every day to learn what was going on in the world.
My father never made much money, but we were too busy enjoying life to notice. My mother stayed home and managed a household of overactive children. Mom and dad were always there for me and my three brothers and sister.
I grew up at a time when there were always plenty of jobs available for someone who was willing to work: selling newspapers; bagging groceries; taking inventory; swinging a sledgehammer; pushing a broom; shoveling mud, coal, rocks, and trash; picking slate, etc. I learned something from every job, and every boss.
Most of my friends were Protestants. There were a few Jewish families in town and a few other Catholic families. These were friends too.
Politics wasn’t too much of an issue, as I recall. At least everyone was civil. The Democrats held almost every political office. It was that way until Eisenhower decided to run as a Republican. Both parties supported the military, and many people “liked Ike.” He had a plan for ending the Korean War.
My parents and grandparents were Democrats, as were most people in the area. But my father was the editor of the local newspaper and took special care not to favor one political party over the other. After all, during every election, he ran ads for both parties.
Race was not an issue for us back then. Virtually everyone was Caucasian in the mountainous, coal mining area where Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia meet. As I recall, there were no residents of African or Asian decent living in the area during my formative years.
Crime was almost nonexistent. Our town was very similar to the fictional “Mayberry”, where Andy Griffith and Don Knotts would have been right at home. I remember that our first phone number was 79, and it may have been a party line because other households might be on the line when you wanted to call someone. Back then, you’d ask the operator to connect you with your party, and she, or some other party line subscriber, would come on the line and tell you where that person was: “Gone to the Post Office”, or, “She’s at the Piggly Wiggly.”
At public school, my teachers were dedicated and effective; teachers that provided discipline and encouragement; that demanded their students demonstrate a mastery of the subject being taught. I actually looked forward to going to school where my environment was safe and free of drugs. School is where I would find my friends. The teachers did not have to worry about lawsuits from dissatisfied parents. There was plenty of discipline in the schools, and I remember several spankings [well deserved] in both grade and high school.
We never had to lock our doors. Strangers would be welcomed and even invited to dinner. You could hitchhike anywhere and not have to worry about getting a ride. Once you were given a ride, the driver would take you where you wanted to go, even if it was out of his way.
I mention this background to give a sense of where I’m coming from and to contrast with today’s cultural environment. Even though my parents warned me not to discuss religion and politics and other such sensitive subjects, I feel compelled to do so.
I want my children, and grandchildren, and the children of future generations of Americans to have the same opportunities I had. Pursuing the “American Dream” was a reality for me… It still is.
Too many people in the United States did not, and do not have the advantages that I did.
My opportunities began in childhood, but today it’s different. Too many children have only one parent, and that parent is working, so the child is more than likely to get shortchanged in parental patience and discipline. Too many children live where the streets aren’t safe. Too many children go to school where the teachers can’t teach because of legal fears, bureaucratic barriers, and lack of respect and recognition for good work.
A poorly educated child has almost no chance to achieve the American Dream and is more likely to create problems for the rest of society.
Our country is failing in its responsibility to educate it’s children; it’s failing to keep the streets safe, it’s failing to provide an economic environment where businesses can flourish, where jobs can be had, and where opportunity can be found.
Our representatives are also failing in their responsibility to protect individual freedom. Yet, a significant segment of our population thinks that government should be solving all of our problems. Most of these people have good intentions. They are concerned about the problems, want them solved, but they fail to evaluate the negative impact of poorly designed government policies. They do not hold government accountable for doing all the wonderful things they think it can do. They don’t appreciate, or understand the boundless energy and creativity of a free people.
As a result of these failures of government, and its supporters, the American Dream just doesn’t exist for a significant segment of our population.