The Only Group Which Can Fix America Is the One Which Created Its Problems

America’s in trouble. We’re in danger of losing our national identity and unity, of becoming irrelevant to ourselves and to the world, no longer the shining light of freedom and participative government.

And the only group in America which can stop and reverse this authorship of the decline of America is the one which created it.

Here are some facts about the economic, social, political and moral divisions in America today.

  • Only 26 percent of Americans believe the U.S. is headed in the right direction.[1]
  • Almost 80% disapprove of Congress’s performance.[2]
  • The middle class has become a minority. In 2015, for the first time in history, Americans in the middle-income bracket didn’t comprise the majority of the country; the rich above and the poor below the middle class made up half the population.[3]
  • We argue about whose lives matter and whose don’t. Eighty-eight percent of blacks say the country needs to continue making changes for blacks to have equal rights with whites, just 8% say the country has already made the necessary changes, but 43% are skeptical that such changes will ever occur. Only 53% of whites say the country still has work to do for blacks to achieve equal rights with whites, 38% say enough changes have already been made and only 11% express doubt that these changes will come.
  • Billionaires and special interest groups wield donations to control and manipulate elections. PACs from outside of Georgia, for example, spend millions to support our state’s candidates, who accept the money.
  • Citizens are threatening to leave the U.S. if either candidate wins the election.

Scary.

The nominations of Clinton and Trump (in alphabetical order with nothing implied) reflect these divisions in America.

  • Fifty-eight percent of Americans rate both presidential candidates unfavorably.[4]
  • Ninety-four percent of Trump’s backers say he is more honest and trustworthy, 70% of those behind Clinton say she is; 17% believe neither of them are.[5]
  • Eighty-one percent of Americans say they would feel afraid after the election of one of the two polarizing politicians, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. That includes 25% who say it doesn’t matter who wins: They’re terrified of both. I’m in the latter group.
  • Three-quarters of voters say their selection of president in the election roughly two months from now would be motivated more by a desire to keep either Trump or Clinton out of the Oval Office rather than voting for the candidate who shares their views on the issues or is the more qualified to hold the office.[6] It’s a lesser-of-two-evils choice.

Scary.

moderates-missing-in-congress

Congress is gridlocked by partisanship. Moderate members of both parties have been pushed out by special interests with campaign contributions. The group of centrist Democrats, known as Blue Dogs, “have been all but eviscerated from the House over the last few elections.”[7]

Scary.

Our next president will have at least one, but more likely several, vacancies to fill on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The appointments will determine the direction of the Supreme Court for a generation when it comes to decisions about everything from religious freedom and states’ rights to abortion and same-sex marriage. “There is no more important issue in this election than the Supreme Court.”[8]

Scary.

The group which created this environment of social and political polarization in America, and the only one which can stop and reverse it?

It’s the group whose delegates selected the two presidential candidates at pgo-we-have-met-the-enemytheir parties’ conventions.

Take a selfie. Look at it. You’re looking at a key member of the group – the American voter and non-voter. It’s YOU. I see the same thing in my selfie. It’s ME.

 

We created the problems. We’re the ones who elect people to represent us. We’re the only ones who change the polarization in our country and put it back on track.

Consider this.

“When asked directly about the legality of abortion, 56% of U.S. adults say it should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 41% who say it should be illegal all or most of the time. In both cases, these figures have remained relatively stable for at least two decades.”[9]

QUESTION: If state legislatures and Congress were representing the people, then why aren’t the votes 56% for a woman’s right to choose and 41% against?

“. . . in 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a margin of 57% to 35%. Since then, support for same-sex marriage has steadily grown. Based on polling in 2016, a majority of Americans (55%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 37% who oppose it.”[10]

QUESTION: If state legislatures and Congress were representing the people, then why aren’t the votes for same sex marriage legislation 57% and 37% against?

In 1999, 70% of Americans favored allowing daily prayer to be spoken in the classroom. In 2000, it was 68%, 66% in 2001 and 61% in 2014. Seventy-four percent supported allowing schools to display the Ten Commandments.

QUESTION: If state legislatures and Congress were representing the people, then why aren’t the votes for same allowing more than 60% for allowing prayer in schools?

Arguably, the practice was deemed by the SCOTUS to conflict with the separation of church and state doctrine. Who appointed the SCOTUS justices? The president, with approval of the Senate. Who elects the president and senators? Look again at the selfie. It’s YOU and ME.

If YOU AND I want to save America, wants to eliminate the polarizing and gridlocking insistence that everyone agree to what s/he believes, wants bipartisanship and compromise to be the rule rather than the exception, there’s a solution.

Forget the presidential election. Forget party loyalty.

Focus on the candidates down the tickets – senators and congresswo/men, governors and lieutenant governors, members of the state legislature, county and local governments.

Don’t assume that they’re qualified and willing to represent the views and desires YOU AND I hold just because they’re on the ballot. All that takes is the money to register and filing the papers. Ever voted for someone running unopposed? Why? Because no one opposed them.

And don’t assume that they’re qualified and willing if the process of getting on the ballot required supporters and financial support. Who are the supporters and contributors? Do they share the viewpoints YOU AND I have?

Question them. Examine their backgrounds, their positions, the way they conduct their campaigns. Find moderate candidates who understand the role in our democratic process and will represent YOU AND ME instead of his/her position or those of the special interest groups to which s/he’s obligated. Who practice the skills of listening to those with opposing views and position, and are willing to negotiate and compromise for the greater good.

Work to get them elected.

Register to vote and vote.

Re-electing the same people over and over and over, essentially providing them with a lucrative professional career for life, is the traditional definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.

If YOU AND I, don’t want to save America, eliminate the polarization and gridlock, bipartisanship and the lack of compromise, however, this entire proposition is moot.

And the threat the future 16th U.S. and first GOP president foretold 178 years ago will come to pass.

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! . . . . At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reaches us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

ENDNOTES

[1] Direction of the Country. RealClear Politics. Retrieved from http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/direction_of_country-902.html

[2] Congressional Job Approval. RealClear Politics. Retrieved from http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/congressional_job_approval-903.html

[3] The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground: No longer the majority and falling behind financially. (December 9, 2015). Pew Research Center, Social & Demographic Trends. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/09/the-american-middle-class-is-losing-ground/

[4] Newport, F. (Jul26,2016). For First Time, Trump’s Image on Par With Clinton’s. Gallup: Opinion. http://www.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/194000/first-time-trump-image-par-clinton.aspx

[5] Agiesta, J., CNN Polling Director. (September 7, 2016).  Poll: Nine weeks out, a near even race. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/06/_politics-zone-injection/trump-vs-clinton-presidential-polls-election-2016/

[6] Steinbuch, Y. (July 14, 2016). News: Most Americans are scared of Clinton or Trump as president. The New York Post. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/gtrdrw3.

[7] Steinhauer, J. (October 8, 2012). Politics: Weighing the Effect of an Exit of Centrists. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/gr8l3kc.

[8] Hatch, O.G. (September 13, 2016.) Opinion/Commentary: A Clinton win would ensure the most liberal Supreme Court in 80 years. The next president’s picks mean the difference between democracy and tyranny. The Washington Times. [Hatch is a Republican senator from Utah, President pro tempore of the Senate.] Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/jz4go4m.

[9] Lipka, M. (June 27, 2016). 5 facts about abortion. Pew Research: FactTank. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/06/27/5-facts-about-abortion/.

[10] Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage. (May 12, 2016). Pew Research: Religion & Public Life. Retrieved from http://www.pewforum.org/2016/05/12/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/

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The Waterloo Police Department Patch, Slogan

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Long-time part of the folklore in the black community of Waterloo is that the police department’s patch and patrol cars with a distinctive red ‘dragon” and the word “Vigilance” is a code for a covert policy which over-polices the blacks. The proof often cited is that Waterloo has the highest per capita of black men incarcerated in the state and that the police department has fewer than a half-dozen minority officers in a town which is almost 25% minority.

The patch and the slogan were proposed in 1964 by then police chief Robert Wright. He wanted a patch which would be unique and create an image of the department which was symbolic of police work.
The dragon on the police department patch is actually a “Griffin,” from Greek mythology. Also called “griffon” or “gryphon,” it has the head and wings of an eagle, the king of birds, and the body, tail, and hind legs of a lion, the king of the beasts. It was believed to be stronger than an ox or a horse and had the ability to fly. Myth has it that a griffin pulled the chariot of Apollo, the Greek sun god.
To the Greeks, it was a powerful and majestic creature, a protector from evil, witchcraft, and slander, “the vigilant guardian of treasure and of kings.”
Former Waterloo Courier artist Jack Bender designed the distinctive patch, according to the Waterloo Daily Courier story in 1964 introducing it.
Excerpt from The Bridge Between, by J. Nicholas De Bonis. (Manuscript being completed.)

Letter to a Young GI

GI Joe — Congratulations as you head into your final week of basic training. HOOAAH!!! It’ll be the longest week of your time at Benning. Then at graduation you’ll look back and go “WTH?” Where did the time go?

You won’t recognize them, but others will — the changes in you. Over time, you’ll also recognize and appreciate them.

The next phase awaits as you head to training in your specialization, whatever it is, something you wanted or something for which the Army had a need. Whatever it is, learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power. Remember, people who know how to do something will always end up working for people who know how and WHY it’s been done and being done that way.

Your MOS isn’t your life’s career. It’s your Army job. I spent four years right out of high school in Air Force logistics. Never used it formally after that. But my knowledge and learning was never lost, and provided me with insights in my subsequent careers. What seemed like a small, insignificant part of  my training and job was learning and using computers for inventory management. I was a digital pioneer with skills which have always been helpful, although I couldn’t recognize, anticipate or appreciate it at the time.

You have a huge advantage right now, and all it’s costing you is some time and a committment. A job with a steady paycheck while you make life decisions. Three squares and a cot. Training. PX, enlisted club, recreational facilities, uniforms and allowance, travel . . . and so on.

It’s your time to grow, mature, explore, cut the umbilical cord and wean yourself into life with a secure support system.

The decisions you make are yours. They come with consequences — good, neutral or bad. Whatever happens, move on. Don’t look back and second guess. Nothing will change. Learn from each decision and go forward.

Thank you for serving. You’re now one of a special fraternity of active duty military and veterans, men and women, living and dead. Welcome.