We Are Better Than We Have Been

220px-old_north_church_boston_1882I really really don’t want to write about politics. I would much prefer composing lyrical blogs that describe the beautiful beaches that I saw on my most recent camping trip. I enjoy extolling the virtues of my grandchildren and former students. I am essentially a happy and positive person who prefers to concentrate on uplifting topics that leave my readers feeling good about life. I believe that political discussions are mostly fruitless, only meaningful to those who share the same beliefs. Attempting to persuade someone to change course in basic philosophy is akin to turning a cruise ship around in a pond. It is very unlikely to be successful and may even cause more harm than good. So why, you may ask, do I keep coming back to the topic of our current president and his travails? I suppose that it is because I have been concerned about his fitness for the office from the first moment that he entered the political scene and I find that every time I grow silent and complacent he does something outrageous.

I am one who is always more than willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I am a true believer in the power of redemption. While I have harbored the gravest of fears about the reality of a President Trump I have argued in his favor, suggesting that we need to wait to see how things work out before jumping to premature conclusions. I had hoped that his bravado and bullish behavior would mellow into a more presidential stature. The gravity of the office has generally brought a modicum of humility to most who have held it. Seemingly this is not to be so with President Trump who continues to operate with a brashness that taints the dignity of the executive. He continues to be so full of himself that he is unwilling to accept even provable facts, instead insisting with a straight face that the most ridiculous statements are true. God forbid that he might actually be wrong. That is something that he refuses to accept. His temperament is that of the class bully, both annoying and frightening given the tremendous power that is in his hands.

The way that he treats people who disagree with him should have been grounds for ignoring him as a feasible candidate but somehow his narcissistic behavior was interpreted as the sign of a strong leader by enough people to propel him into office. For well over a year now I have misread the mood of the nation, believing that his malicious and immature personality would defeat him. Now his is the face of our country and quite frankly that frightens me more than I care to admit. Still I have reiterated again and again the advice that we remain calm. When I cautioned against freaking out too quickly I did not honestly believe that within a single week he would so blithely sign one executive order after another with little or no thought as to the consequences of his actions. I had also thought that there would be voices from his own Republican party who would speak out when he went too far and somehow there has been mostly silence with the exception of a few brave souls like John McCain and Linsey Graham who will probably be voted out of office for being bright beacons in a dark and tempestuous sea.

Here is what I see as the most basic problem with almost every solution that President Trump is proposing, they are all too simplistic. For example, aside from becoming a terrible eyesore on the land, a wall between the United States and Mexico will do little or nothing to address our immigration issues. There are hundreds of miles where it will be literally impossible to build any kind of structure due to the terrain and the fact that the border is determined by a river for a considerable length. People who are desperate enough will find ways to either climb over the walls or dig under them. A physical barrier does not address the reasons that people leave their native countries. It only makes their journeys a bit more difficult. The other aspect of his so called brilliant idea is to deport those who are here illegally. Again the impracticality of that idea is all too obvious, not to mention the inhumanity of tearing families apart. There are better ways but for some reason we have not yet had the stomach to tackle the hard work involved in creating a more reasonable and lasting solution. That will take compromise and for now we seem more inclined to squabble than to find common ground. I will be the first to admit that both of our political parties are quite guilty of this.

Our educational system is not without its problems but thinking that just giving every student a voucher to use in any school of choice is as ridiculous as the idea of a wall. Few private schools cost less than eight to ten thousand dollars per year and the vouchers won’t even come close to providing that kind of money. Besides most of exclusive schools have tough entrance exams that exclude even those with the income to pay. In addition there are only so many spots in the most desirable public schools and those will go quickly, especially if preference is given to those who live and pay taxes in the area. Ultimately the students who have had to attend the worst performing schools will end up right back in the same desolate places and the system that we have built will be in a shambles without ever addressing the real problems. The quick fix isn’t going to work.

Admittedly the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. There is fairly good proof that it is about to collapse under its own weight. That being said, it provided a much needed safety net to people who in an earlier time might have been bankrupted by a serious illness. To think that it is possible to repeal the law without giving any real thought to what will replace it verges on immorality. Doing that will create chaos in the care of all of us as insurance companies, doctors and hospitals struggle to make sense of what will come next. There will be far too many people hurt unless a carefully thought out plan considers those with preexisting conditions and those who are unable to afford typical health insurance policies. So far we do not have any reassuring examples of President Trump thinking before acting as is all too apparent in the way that he handled the issue of immigration and travel of people from dangerous parts of the world this past weekend. Additionally there is far too much fear and anger impeding any form of progress.

I have grown weary of politicians who march to the drumbeat of a so called base rather than to the voices of all of the people. I am going to scream if I hear one more soundbite from either side and that goes for the voters as well. The rancor that exists is appalling. Instead I want to see individuals who think for themselves and consider each issue based on its merits and flaws rather than on what they think they are supposed to say and do. I am seriously afraid that if we continue with the same old rhetoric and platitudes that we are in for a world of hurt. One of my cousins is becoming increasingly convinced that our day of reckoning as a nation is drawing near and that it will only be when we have endured great pain and tragedy that we will finally come to our senses and begin to work together again as a nation. I truly hope that she is wrong but for some time now I have been thinking exactly the same thing.

I am in my sunset years. At the age of sixty eight I know that my time will be limited. At this point in my life I am more concerned about the future of my children and grandchildren and former students than for myself. This is why I keep writing because if I am able to convince even one more person of the value of working toward a common good then my efforts will not have been in vain. I am but a tiny voice that will not be heard in the halls of power unless it is joined by others who share my concerns. Together we may be able to sound the same bell of freedom that rang in the old North Church on that night when our ancestors made a strike against the tyranny of a king who had gone mad with his own power. We are better than we have been for a while now. This I truly believe. That is why I write.