I've received considerable positive feedback about my last column, “God and politics.” A large number of people have told me they agree with what I said.
Such compliments are appreciated, but I'm also happy to receive negative feedback, such as the letter we published last week, “Traditional values are decency and hard work,” criticizing my position. Such criticism is good, keeping me on my toes and providing an excuse to write another column.
Most of the points made in the letter were valid, but debatable, and they deserve serious comment and discussion.
But the writer inserted an irrational element when he suggested I had been drinking “Obama Kool-Aid.” The implication, of course, is that, because of my liberal leaning, I'm somewhere in left field, probably because I'm intoxicated, or otherwise not quite all there mentally.
I actually found the comment rather humorous, since, when I was a teacher 40 years or so ago, some of my students thought I was hopelessly conservative, despite my vote for George McGovern. And they may have had a point about my conservatism, since I owned a sizable collection of Nixon buttons, which, I am embarrassed to say, I had worn to school in 1960. I was only 16 then and didn't know any better.
Suffice it to say, then, that my political inclinations were evolving well before President Obama was born — an event which did take place in Hawaii, by the way — and anyway, I'm not by nature a hero-worshipper. Even great men, George Washington, for example, are flawed human beings, and that is definitely true of our president. I tend toward seeing both of them as real people rather than the mythical heroes or demonic fiends some make them out to be.
So, when I started to write this column last week, I planned to include a wisecrack about over-indulgence in tea spiked by Sarah Palin, who, it seems to me, has the same effect on some conservative voters that President Obama has on some liberals. But, having listened to a discussion about civility over the weekend, I decided to take a different path.
The fact is, I am not the radical the writer thinks I am. I agree that the government has been fiscally irresponsible, wasteful and bigger than it should be. Neither am I opposed to the work ethic, having been a job-holder ever since I took over a paper route back in 1955, and I am still working, even though I could be retired at my age.
It's important to point out, though, that I am able to work, in part, because of fortunate circumstances. I have found a job that fits my talents and physical abilities, and I remain healthy enough to perform in it. In addition, I have found a boss who doesn't mind employing a guy bordering on geezerhood. Not all people my age are that lucky.
The realization that I am blessed by good fortune is the basis for my liberal view on government aid to people less fortunate than I am. That realization grew out of more than 50 years of working and observing the world, not the result of something I drank or some hero I worshipped.
America's social problems, including unemployment, have complex causes because our society is complex, and an unemployed person can't be simply written off as lazy or lacking a work ethic. A variety of social, economic, political and personal factors are involved. I will take the writer's word for it that he isn't a racist, but it is naive to deny that race or ethnicity plays a role in finding a job. So do gender, sexual orientation, age and even religion.
Even personal assets, such as education and training, may sometimes have a negative effect on employment. I personally know people who have had difficulty because they couldn't find the jobs they were prepared for, but were rejected for lower level jobs because they were “over-qualified.”
But in our political life, complex issues are usually boiled down to simplified slogans, most of them designed to play on people's emotions rather than serious discussion about the causes and solutions of problems.
Demonstrations such as the Beck/Palin event I criticized in my last column are designed around such simplified slogans. The plea for “traditional American values” is as empty and meaningless as the “power to the people” slogans chanted by left-wing anti-war demonstrators a generation ago in the absence of serious discussion of what those concepts mean and how they apply to the events at hand.
Such discussion is not available in the ranting heard from radio commentators or seen in signs waved in anger on the steps of the U.S. Capitol by whatever group is angry this year. Neither can such debate take place when we begin the discussion accusing our opponents of being un-American, crazy or intoxicated with Kool-Aid or spiked tea just because they see the situation from a different perspective than we do.
With that in mind, I invite anyone who takes exception to my positions to respond. I may not like your opinion, and I will try to point out the flaws your thinking, but I won't cast any aspersions on whatever is in your tea cup.