#1036 – Dick Bernard: Political Talk. It's way past time we look at our own personal role in all of this.

Directly related, for leisure reading, what seems to be a good site on Civil Discourse, here.
In the state that works, Minnesota, we have again witnessed the absurd government-by-posturing where the Senate and House and Governor desperately attempt to avoid another government shutdown, even the thought of which was never necessary in the first place. It is as if the end of the regular session is the beginning of time of action, going to the brink*….
“Bull-headed” behavior, as I learned it in North Dakota years ago, seems to continue to prevail: “My way or the highway.”
Give a political leader a microphone, or newsprint quotes, and blame (against the other, always) comes quickly and easily; as does wearing the personal and partisan mantle of righteousness.
Like it or not, we citizens are the ones most to blame – all of us – however disinterested or repulsed we may be by “politics as usual”. We tolerate this behavior.
Wherever it is, federal, state, local, we get exactly the government that we deserve, and we can’t escape accountability by being able to say “I didn’t vote for any of them”, or such.
We are a democracy “of the people, by the people, for the people”.
We, the people, are very sloppy.
The June 12, 2015, Minneapolis Star Tribune carried four letters about the looming shutdown (which did not happen).
The best letter by far was the last from Meseret Hine a youngster in St. Paul, who said to the titular leaders of Minnesota (two Democrats and one Republican):
“Dear Gov. Dayton, Rep. Daudt and Sen. Bakk:
I am very sorry about the fight you are having with each other.
I have a way for you to stop fighting.
My second-grade teacher Mrs. Sturm taught me and my classmates a way to get along with each other when we are mad – it is called the “Stop Steps. Here they are:
“S” = Say your feelings.
“T” – Tell what you want.
“O” = Own your part.
“P” = Peaceful Partners.
Even if you are enemies, you can be peaceful partners and get your work done if you use these steps with each other. I wish you good luck.”

Of course, Mrs. Sturm and Meseret Hine are not unique among their colleague teachers and students. Neither is their technique new. Remember Robert Fulghum’s “All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten”?
Of course, what is happening in St. Paul is childs play compared with what is happening in Washington D.C. every day of the week. And what is happening there is child’s play compared with the posturing we’re going to have to endure over the next many months.
There is no need to put a partisan designation on all of these.
We all participate, including, especially, by our non-participation in the conversations that lead to our governments being what they are.
I was struck by another item in the Minneapolis paper early this week. It was a column, “A Field Guide to Political Hate”, by Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, hardly a left-wing outfit.
Political hate is about all we get from today’s media bites from this constituency or that.
It’s up to us to sift and sort, and call the offenders out, whenever we discover them doing their deeds. And remind their disciples – the people who gobble up the false news without questioning – that we’re being manipulated.
Way to go, Meseret and Mrs. Sturm! Let’s use some common sense.
* – The settlement came early Saturday morning, thus not in the Saturday paper, and probably no longer “news” by Sunday. The Star Tribune story is here.
POSTNOTE: As I sent this post on to my own list, I added this note:
Back in 1981, lots of Minnesota teachers went on strike, including my own local.
We had the right to do so, for the first time.
Strikes were fairly common in 1981 – maybe 20% of school districts either went on or actively threatened strikes that year; they were less common in 1983, they’ve been extremely rare ever since. To my knowledge, they’re still “legal”, but no one wants to go there.
Strikes, we learned, really solve nothing. Best to figure out how to work things out.
The nonsense at federal and state lawmaking is directly akin to strikes. Once you’re out the door, you have to figure out how to get back in. And management (which seems to have the advantage) does not have any advantage at all. They are equally losers. They can posture about how they can prevail without the teachers in the classroom, or workers on the line, but they, too, are in desperate shape.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s close enough for me.
There’s another observation about this which I think also deserves consideration:
Even in those old days when the adjustment was being made in the power relationship between teachers and school boards, there was, even in small towns, often a long-term relationship between the teachers who represented their colleagues in salary talks, and the management representatives. They generally knew and respected each other, and they occupied, in a sense, the same house.
This used to be true with legislators as well. While they were from different places in the state, or country, and had different philosophies, they at least knew and respected each other, often for many years.
In this era of winner take all and often young and unseasoned and very partisan legislators who are hard to budge from their certainties, “compromise” in any way is considered a dirty word.
We are the worst for this.

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