Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

We all do better when we all do better...

Posted

As I’m puzzling about where to put my writing attention, my mind is buzzing with questions. These days, no matter how many answers I have, there are always more questions. My biggest question this morning is, “Why don’t people get it?” That “it” is a cavernous category. There are so many basic concepts that seem pretty darn simple to me, and they all really come down to one: “We all do better when we all do better,” an aphorism coined by Senator Paul Wellstone in a 1999 speech to the Sheet Metal Workers Union. This is the idea that underlies unions: we stick together, we support each other, we’re stronger, and we can make positive changes.

Paul talked about the appalling attempts of Congress, with Republican majorities in the House and the Senate, to undermine prevailing protections with double-speak titles: efforts to weaken OSHA called the Safe Act, allowing companies to hire their own consultants and exempt themselves from government sanctions and penalties. Or efforts to overturn the forty-hour work week called the Family Friendly Workplace Act. Efforts to go back to company unions called the Team Act. Paul Wellstone fought all these efforts and would be appalled to see what is going on today.

We all do better if free, quality education is available for everyone. Without the quality education I received in public schools and two state universities, I would neither know that “aphorism” means “a short pithy instructive statement”, nor how to spell it. I also wouldn’t know the correct usage of neither/nor. The Earth would not rock off its axis if you and I didn’t have that knowledge, but our society and our world are impacted very heavily by an educated citizenry who value lifelong living; understand how to ask good questions and work on solutions; who can do work that is satisfying and sustaining; who know how to communicate and create meaningful work and personal relationships; who comprehend the structure of a democracy, how it is supposed to work, and what their roles can be within it.

We all do better if we have good, affordable health care so we can access preventative wellness care to keep healthy and critical care when the need arises, without having to make the choice between getting food or getting health care and without going bankrupt or losing our home because we didn’t have sufficient medical insurance. We would all do better if those of us who are in need could get excellent mental health care without being stigmatized.

We all do better if we can walk on the street without fear and live in a safe place we can call “home.” We all do better if we can live in nurturing families and communities.

We all do better if we have opportunities to obtain whatever kind of education fits for us, secure a job, and get a home without discrimination of any kind putting obstacles in our way to leading a fulfilling life.

Why is it that some people don’t understand that their lives are better when they help others? I have often experienced the generosity of people who don’t have very much. In Mexico, I stayed with a family for a month while I went to school, and the mother, the señora, served us meat with every dinner, an expensive sacrifice, even though her family was boarding me because they needed the money. I actually preferred tacos and stuffed peppers to chunks of meat, but I couldn’t tell them because I didn’t want to insult them. The señora was also generous with her time, proofreading my essays and teasingly correcting my spoken Spanish. I also know very generous people who live very comfortably, but people with less money often have to rely on others, and they also understand what it is to be without. The Biblical story of the loaves and fishes is not a parable about magical food, but about the miracle of sharing.

I’ve never understood why some people didn’t get bonked with the wand of generosity, because it just seems to be common sense, and it feels good, to share with others when we have more than we need, especially when it lifts other people up.

Even if people don’t quite see or share the value of caring for our fellow beings, there are just plain practical and selfish reasons to want everyone to do better. If people do not live in fear and deprivation, they are much less likely to steal or hurt others out of desperation. The level of violence has been escalating in our country, as unhealthy, angry people use their fists or pick up guns to take their rage and frustration out on others. As the gap between the wealthiest and the rest of us expands, as tax breaks and benefits accrue to the wealthy at the expense of people with lower incomes, the frustration, anger, and hopelessness grow as people try to just live a decent life and provide for themselves and their families. When people sequester themselves in gated communities, perhaps they see themselves as privileged, but it seems to me they are locking themselves in, being voluntary prisoners, instead of living without fear in their community.

People with adequate healthy care are not reliant on expensive visits to the emergency room with everyone else paying increasing insurance premiums to cover the cost. If people are healthier, happier, with adequate education, they are likely to be better at whatever work they do, and we would all have the blessing of interacting with people who are good at their jobs, providing excellent service.

Along with many others, I’m frustrated with the partisan politics and the voters who support candidates who don’t seem to understand their responsibilities or what the “common good” means. Doesn’t a Supreme Court candidate who will need intelligent and reasoned judgment pretty much disqualify himself when he dissolves into rage, partisan accusations, and bullying right on the stand? Doesn’t a president involved in thousands of lawsuits who routinely bullies and demeans women, immigrants, minorities, and reporters disqualify himself as a leader of the country?

What I do understand is that we have a powerful tool to make a difference, and that is the right to vote. Fight for what you care about, education, health care, human rights, social security, gun laws, environmental standards, or anything else. Research the candidates, and support those who represent your values. Talk to others and encourage others not to sink into apathy or hopelessness. That’s a sure win for the opposition.

Comments

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bonfire

Bravo Betty!

Friday, October 12
Scott Atwater

Shame on you Betty! You state that you are frustrated with the partisan politics, then immediately launch into a partisan rant. You criticize a supreme court justice nominee for defending himself in a historic and uncorroborated smear campaign, while turning a blind eye to a partisan press that has abandoned any remaining ethics that journalism once had. You express your concern about bullying, yet fail to even acknowledge the documented mob rule tactics now being employed on a scale anywhere from single families in restaurants to the very halls of congress.

You are right about one thing though, Betty, the right to vote is a powerful tool. The people did so in 2016. You may not like the outcome, but shame on you, and others like you, for not accepting the will of the people.

Friday, October 12
jtormoen

Bravo Betty!!!

Oh, and off I go to check those vote totals again.

Friday, October 12
bonfire

Mr. A's comment reminded me of a cartoon of the Last Supper in which Jesus says, " Hey, who just unfollowed me?"

Friday, October 12
Scott Atwater

Trump 304 - Clinton 227.

#WalkAway.

5 days ago
jtormoen

If the right to vote is such a popular and powerful tool ... why then an Electoral College? The "will of the people" was reflected in the popular vote. I need not bother repeating it.

Bravo Betty

5 days ago
jtormoen

and with that I will just putt putt away. There is no sense in non-sensical nonsense

5 days ago
Scott Atwater

The preservation of states rights is one of the founding principles protected by the electoral college. I notice this is never an issue when progressives win the most electoral votes.

Maybe put on over to the library and check out a civics book.

5 days ago
Michelle from Minnesota

First a couple of disclaimers: I am on vacation a thousand miles away from Minnesota and cut off from the day-to-day news of the Northland, sans the nearly nightly telephone polls on our landline and the television political ads and mailers that have been bombarding us for months. I have to admit, its a relief to escape the frenzied election scene back home. (note: I did vote early.) For the first time in months I have had a chance to reflect on things and breath deeply. I apologize, if what you are about to read tends to ramble. But hey, this is my vacation and my comment. Right?

Secondly I aways read magazines from the back to the front. Don't ask me why, it's a weird habit formed as a kid. I always have and always will do just that. Today as habit has it... I read these comments first and then scrolled up to read Betty's commentary to see what on earth she wrote to cause someone to "shame her."

After reading her complete post twice, I had to scratch my head and wonder if her critics actually read the same commentary before weighing in with their thoughts.

Most of us tend to read between the lines, and add our preconceived notions to the subject at hand. Maybe that's the case here. But I do know there are many more issues that unite us than divide us.

-Who doesn't know someone who is just one catastrophic illness away from financial ruin? How can anyone argue that affordable healthcare and life saving medicine should not be accessible to everyone?

There is a reason "common good," is good.

-Whether it is a disagreement with a friend, a neighbor or another nation isn't it more beneficial to first resolve conflict with dialog to find the common good?

-The size of a bank account is not the measure of a man or a woman. Nor is the affiliation or the support of a particular political party. Yet in the most powerful, wealthiest nation in the world people are holding down two jobs with limited benefits and scraping by with the aid of a monthly visit to the local food shelf. As hard as we try to build a nation where equal means equal kids are still going to bed hungry and people are dying because their cannot afford their medicine. This is not good, common or otherwise.

Those are tough questions and some facts. Now the question is how will we respond?

Yes, the late Senator Wellstone was on to something when he said, "We all do better when we all do better." We must not allow tweets and social media squabbles to run us into the ground---as we fight to have the final word to score a false victory. Nobody really wins. I hold tightly to the notion embraced by Lincoln that our better angels will prevail to reunite this nation. Our neighbors are not our enemies. We are in this together. Regardless of our political affiliation we are Americans first. If we are to thrive, we must move forward together.

4 days ago
bonfire

Well said, Michelle from MN.

Speaking of common good, I think of my northern MN immigrant grandparents and all the those other settlers across the US who worked for the common good, helped each other, their neighbors to survive and thrive, creating homes and strong communities here. No human is an island. It's common sense to work for the common good benefiting even those who have not an ounce of altruism for anyone not one of their own and self-impose their own "gated" compounds.

4 days ago
Scott Atwater

Don't look now......but we all are doing better. Lowest unemployment rate in two decades, food stamp enrollment at an eight year low, and markets at record highs. Is healthcare a serious issue.....of course it is, but one would expect that employers will once again offer better benefits in a robust economy as competition for workers increases.

It's only been two years since a populist conservative philosophy has replaced the latest progressive attempt at governing in Washington, and the results are astoundingly positive. It's a fool's errand to believe that the federal government can manage healthcare or healthcare costs. One only has to look at the debacle known as the Veterans Health Administration.

Yes, shame on Betty, for her refusal to leave the echo chamber, but perhaps worst of all....her inability to see the failings in Marxism.

4 days ago