#262 – Dick Bernard: A reflective moment

Earlier this morning I was at my daily hangout, the Caribou Coffee in Woodbury MN. It’s been my daily day-opener for ten years now. I like the place and the people – regulars and staff. I guess it could be considered part of my daily ritual.
One of the staff came by this morning, noting I seemed deep in thought. I was.
Indeed, thinking is an important part of every day for me, legal pad in front of me, newspaper, oft-times other things. Most every day, Caribou is where I gear up for the day ahead.
Today is an unusual day.
President Obama is in town, and I plan to go. I decided, somewhat on spur of the moment earlier this week, to request a Press Pass, and an e-mail late last night confirmed I am on the approved list. My “street creds” are 262 blog postings at this site. That’s it. This is the first time I’ve ever been part of the Press Pool, so to speak. I’ll report on that experience tomorrow.
Earlier this morning I had read the entirety of the opinion page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, specifically three commentaries generally on the upcoming election by J. Brian Atwood, Syl Jones and Johnathan Gurwitz. Brian Atwood and Syl Jones know me – I hope positively; I’ve met them both; Johnathan Gurwitz is off my radar. All three columns are well worth the time to read.
I was most interested in the Gurwitz commentary, which distressingly reflects today’s American electorate, and I fixed mostly on this quotation which led his column “When workers in the former East Germany had the temerity to rise up against their Marxist masters in 1953, members of the communist Writers Union distributed leaflets demanding that the workers labor twice as hard to win back the confidence of the government.”
I’ll take Gurwitz at his word – that his quote accurately reflects the history.
When the Caribou staffer walked by this morning, I was thinking specifically about the Gurwitz commentary, and I had hen-scratched onto my note pad a few random thoughts:
1. East Germany workers and others did indeed tear down the Berlin wall, but it took 36 years after 1953 to accomplish this, and it was not the mythological Ronald Reagan who hurried the deed by saying “tear down this wall” in 1987; it was the East Germans themselves (late 1989). The East German regime in 1953 outlasted 23 years of Republican U.S. Presidents: Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan; and 13 years of Democrat Presidents: Kennedy, Johnson, Carter.
“Power to the People” is not a spectator sport. “Throw the bums out”, a common contemporary narrative of the “populists” and their spokespeople and backers, is more than angrily marking a ballot in the passion of the moment.
2. There is a distressing – and exploited – tendency for people to make decisions based on Anger. Anger is not a good emotion on which to make short or long-term decisions. Prisons are full of people who killed somebody in Anger, and felt good about it afterward – only waking up later to the consequences of their deed. Making decisions based on National Anger is unproductive and dangerous. (The root of “Decide”, is the same root as for words like “suicide”, “homicide”….)
3. We are a society full of people who are, at best, half-empty on essential information on which to make informed decisions. Too many don’t know the other side of the story, and furthermore, don’t want to know. Worse, we often focus on our own side of our own single issue, as if it is the only thing that matters. Then we associate only with people who agree with our point of view. This is not healthy. Neither is it healthy to take an anti-intellectual position. We need people who are able to think things through and make wise decisions based on complex data.
Shortly I’ll leave to see the President. If past is prelude: it is an investment of an entire afternoon, mostly waiting. He will probably speak for 20 minutes or so, which will then be distilled down into perhaps a maximum of a minute max of sound bites for television, two minute total segment, and summary reports in tomorrows papers.
More tomorrow.
More personal thoughts on Election 2010 here.