October 29, 2014 Politics Government, More or Less This op-ed was published in the Wednesday, October 29, 2014, edition of the Lawrence County Advocate. In Wednesday’s Advocate, publisher Sam Kennedy endorsed Bill Haslam to be re-elected as governor of Tennessee. He said, “He is usually level headed, reasoned and fair. Add to that, I don’t feel like I need a bath after I watch his commercials.” Mr. Kennedy prefaced this rather profound pat-on-the-back with a lamentation echoing my own frustrations with the political milieu in our state and the nation. To quote him, “So I will not look forward to the next election as I once did. There is no discussion of a better future, only how bad we are. No one has the courage to suggest that new taxes might be necessary to make our schools better, our roads more passable, and extend Medicare to all Tennesseans. They are all against something or somebody…” I, too, lament the general unwillingness to embrace compromise. One-sided positions do nothing to further our country. In fact, they damage it. Where statesmen used to argue their points then compromise over drinks after sessions, our current legislators’ belligerent noise has bled over into our national conversation, poisoning it. Most damaging is the anti-government rhetoric that has crept into dialogue at an alarming rate. I have to believe party operatives are at the root of this phenomenon followed by the candidates themselves, news propaganda shows masquerading as hard news programs, and talk radio. I have heard “I hate the government” so often of late that I wonder why more people don’t move to private compounds and raise their own food and energy off the grid. They don’t do this, and to me this is telling. In fact, many government haters actually take government assistance all the while despising the fact that the government assistance exists! What does it mean to criticize our government while taking Pell Grants or TennCare for households as people buy new vehicles/go on vacations/remodel homes? How do folks rant about people on welfare “stealing” their money while they take it another way when they truly don’t have the need to do so? And for seniors, what if the Democrats had not fought tooth and nail for Medicare? Can anyone over 64 even comprehend shopping for insurance on the open market with arthritis/diabetes/cancer/glaucoma/heart disease at that age? Even with the ACA, their coverage would be unaffordable. Still, many loathe the government when a Democrat is in office and vote accordingly. Want the federal government out of our lives? Maybe prefer Rand Paul who would, according to the Washington Post eliminate four Cabinet departments including Energy, Education, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development? Under Paul’s vision, we could just about eliminate the notion of clean drinking water, food, or air. Those would not be regulated, and for-profit companies over the decades have proven their willingness to risk poisoning for profits. Of course the largest drain on the budget is for national defense. I rarely hear folks complain about defense contractors that far overspend for military projects, raking in millions at the expense of taxpayers. Yet, I hear bitterness towards the poor on welfare virtually every day. I don’t begrudge people taking governmental assistance when they need it because I understand that many times someone’s suffering and needs are not outwardly apparent. What I mind is the constant barrage of negativity when we all, like it or not, need our government to work for us. As Mr. Kennedy suggested, where is the discussion of a better future? Where is the room for dissent when a party works against the good of the American people? And finally, some have no issue intruding on the most personal and intimate decisions people make while railing against government intrusions elsewhere. I find it disingenuous that folks decry having the government in their lives but so wish for it in other people’s bedrooms and between girls and women and their healthcare professionals. And, not only do they want the government to step in change privacy laws, they also look to it to give hand-outs after natural disasters and put people to death. In other words, they like government when it serves their own agendas. All this bitterness and hate and anti-government rhetoric must stop if our country is ever to get back to a place where our legislators can actually work together. It is time to step back and see the good in our lives. If negative people, television, and radio pump their audiences up into angry lather, it’s time to turn them off. Only by compromising and recognizing that the other side is not all evil can we even hope to work together to make the world a brighter place. Sam Kennedy epitomizes my point with his pragmatic approach to politics, calling it as he sees it, regardless of party or affiliation. As a liberal, I am proud of his endorsement of a Republican governor. His example is one we all can respect.