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Attorney Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954: "Have you no sense of decency?"
This year the 4th of July celebrations were different. The usual parades, fireworks, community events, and family picnics were not happening because of the pandemic. Of course the maudlin TV extravaganza’s still polluted the airways with over-hyped patriotic militarism. The hucksters will still wave the flag to sell cars, furniture, brats and beer. But the celebratory bringing of people together to honor our founding ideals – “we hold these truths to be self evident that ALL [PEOPLE] are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights...” – won’t be happening. In fact these noble ideals ring hollow given what is currently happening of our country.
The news is full of examples of the far right in this country trampling on the founding ideals in the pursuit of power, money and ideological nonsense. The list is too long to fully enumerate here but three examples must be noted.
The Republicans have done every-thing possible to make it harder for people to vote including opposing sensible emergency actions during the pandemic.
They have undermined prudent public health actions during the pan-demic with misinformation, inaction, and lawsuits (on top of decades of opposing a sensible national health care program).
The result has been a recent dramatic increase in new cases of the disease.
They have maligned peaceful pro-tests over the legitimate grievances with excessive use of force by police. Now they are encouraging armed white supremacists to oppose, threaten, and intimidate legitimate protesters. The same armed terrorists oppose sensible measures to slow the pandemic.
When one party repeatedly displays contempt for democracy, undermines the safety and health of the people, and fosters division, hate, and racism, it is time for change. This change must come from people becoming politically active and voting for better leaders. This year none of us can afford sit on the sidelines. By your silence and inaction you give your consent to what is happening.
As I have written before, you may think politics is dirty and you don’t want to get involved. But politics is the way we organize and run our society. Politics will happen to you whether you are involved or not. You don’t have to be political junkie, but you do need to pay attention to what is going on. This involves learning about the issues (not just swallowing the TV sound bites) and thinking about the real impact of mediocre leadership on you and your community.
President Obama has said, “...if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy....then it results in bad government and politics.”
Good change can come if good people get active. In the past there were many active people who advocated for change. All that is good about our current society is the result of these people’s activism. Some of these people were the great men and women we read about in the history books. But many were unsung, unknown people who did the small things needed to build progress.
In a democracy people get the government they deserve. We all are ultimately responsible for the results of political decisions in our society. We should have learned this lesson, especially considering the last three and a half years of incompetence and chaos.
The current Republican party is not the party of your grandfather. None of this is about appropriate differences in political philosophy, the proper role of government, keeping taxes low, or any other policy issues.
The current crop of Republicans have proven by their statements and actions that they do not care about people, democracy, equality, justice, or the self evident “truths” of the founding Fathers. They do not care if children are incarcerated at the border. They do not care if people die from disease, or go hungry, or are homeless, or die in needless wars.
They are solely motivated by the desire for power and money. The premature opening of non-essential business and the resulting sharp spike in COVID-19 infections is clear evidence of their lack of caring.
We are really talking about leaders who exhibit basic human decency. Writing about the impeachment of Richard Nixon, historian Barbara Tuchman said, “Political expediency should not take precedence over decency in government ... ”
During the McCarthy-era communist witch hunts a lawyer testifying before Congress famously asked Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Today’s Republicans have abandoned decency, and the public good, for political expediency.
Under the current administration we are all living with the results – leadership with no decency. Andrew Bacevich, retired Army colonel, combat veteran, history professor and political commentator, makes the point very well, “It’s time to look in the mirror, folks. Blaming Trump for being Trump simply won’t do... Our president is a product and beneficiary of several decades worth of vainglory, cynicism, epic folly, political cowardice, missed opportunities, and a public not given to paying attention ... no one can deny that the chickens have come home to roost” (emphasis added).
Leadership matters. When we elect incompetent, arrogant, ignorant leaders all of us and the country suffer the consequences.
It is easy to complain about politics. It is easy to take the apathetic road and believe the politicians are all bought, my vote doesn’t count, money talks, and there is nothing I can do to change the world. But democracy only works with broad public participation. Now is the time for everyone to participate by supporting candidates that will actually represent the majority of citizens.
This year we MUST elect competent leaders who care about people, health, education, justice, protecting the environment and learning to live together in peace.
We need leaders who will actually bring us all together to form a “more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty” for ALL OF US.