Sunday, May 5, 2013

Passing the buck

We all have to put up with a lot of noise in our lives each day, but sometimes we hear words spoken that cause us to pause and think.
For whatever reason, I have repeatedly been in situations lately where I have heard discussions about our country’s direction and who is responsible for it. In each situation, I did not offer much input, preferring to be a fly on the wall. Many times, a person can learn more about the mood of a situation by just listening instead of leaping into the middle of it.
Based on what I heard, there are many people who believe our nation has started down a slippery slope with little chance for recovery. According to them, times are bad, and there is not much hope our current leadership can do much to help.
I discount that point of view to a certain degree. For better or worse, I have always been a ‘glass-is-half-full’ kind of man. While I concede the United States has many problems on its plate, we still live in a formidable country. I would not want to live any place else.
I guess the aspect of these discussions that intrigued me most was the amount of finger pointing taking place. Some people pointed their fingers right at President Obama and the Democrats and felt it was their entire fault. Others laid the blame right at the feet of Republicans. There were others who blamed everybody and decried the fact that nobody seems to be able to work together.
However, in each of these discussions, a recurring theme was how none of them put our current problems in any type of historical context.
For example, our nation has a national debt of almost $17 trillion that is currently growing by a staggering $900 billion each fiscal year. Based on the talk I heard, most people appear to believe this problem sprouted up overnight with absolutely no warning.
Of course, this is totally incorrect. The era of big federal government can at least be traced back to President Johnson’s administration in the 1960s. This approach has continued, and we have little consensus about how to pay for all we want. Even though this problem has been a long time coming, many people want to simple-mindedly heap all the blame on our current representatives (though they do deserve their share of blame).
The same goes for social issues like gay marriage. For me, it amazes me how many people appear to believe this issue simply showed up out of thin air. For anybody paying attention, we know the gay rights movement has been gaining momentum for decades. In a modern sense, it can be traced back to the Stonewall Rebellion of the late 1960s, and there have been other milestones of that movement as time has unfolded. My comments should not be misinterpreted as either support or rejection of the gay rights movement. My point is that some people have proven themselves totally clueless about even knowing it was going on.
I guess the overwhelming emotion I felt as I listened to these people was that it is better late than never when it comes to paying attention to what is going on around us. Apathy is real, and the tragedy is that most people never pay attention. In the 2012 presidential election, 90 million people who were eligible to vote did not. I guess ‘American Idol’ must have been on that day.
The bottom line is we need to at least be paying attention to what is going on. We do not have to agree, but let us try to be knowledgeable about what we are talking about.

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