As members of my family and I were discussing politics this weekend, my son Lance said, “I had never considered that.”
His statement was in response to my saying, “I believe that there are voters who will remain silent or even disparage President Trump when comments about his policy and/or behavior surface, but those same persons plan to vote for him.”
My reasoning: their retirement accounts/investments. Some check theirs religiously — even several times a day — and others wait until a quarterly account is mailed to them or an email pops up. For this group, these favorable financial reports can’t be divorced from their mortgage payments, college expenses for their children, and even planned vacations. Their values will take a back seat to their financial prosperity.
We play Devil’s advocate in my family as we strive to predict how politics will play out in the U.S. as the voting blocs express their convictions and the spokespersons for them seize opportunities to address the American public, always looking for ways to secure new voters and maintain the ones they already feel certain are in their corners.
In the end, whether intentional or not, some of these spokespersons show disregard for the realities that some Americans experience. This list is long, but I’m going to provide a few examples: racism, homelessness or housing that is hopeless, inadequate or absent health care, poor schools, violence in their neighborhoods.
And there is also the issue of the destruction of the American family. In the March 2020 issue of The Atlantic, David Brooks in his feature “The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake” reports, “According to work by Richard V. Reeves, a co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution, if you are born into poverty and raised by your married parents, you have an 80 percent chance of climbing out of it.” Fewer and fewer American children have the luxury of being raised by their married parents.
All of the problems I have raised create a need for expensive social service networks in an attempt to ameliorate the harmful issues which plague our country. And the question arises: Who is going to pay for them?
Some would argue at times, particularly when among like-minded people, that tax cuts for the wealthy and de-regulation of the businesses/industries they own creates more opportunities for the middle and lower classes. Others dispute this.
And one of the arguments for severely limiting assistance to the poor that has been around for who knows how long was articulated in 1968 by Garrett Hardin, a professor at the University of California/Santa Barbara in “The Tragedy of the Commons” and later in “Lifeboat Ethics: The Case Against Helping the Poor.”
Hardin posits that a lifeboat can only hold X number of people. Wise countries will recognize this even when persons of Christian or Marxist philosophic bent support, for example, immigration, often arguing that in the U.S. we are all immigrants except for Native Americans.
Further, Hardin indicates that what individuals do with their personal wealth is their own concern, “To be generous with one’s own possessions is quite different from being generous with those of posterity.” He concedes that although the “ethics of a lifeboat” are “harsh,” the survival of a country depends upon it,
The slogan “America First” is being challenged by other countries even as I type this column. What’s your sense of this? My sense is that even from the perspective of military power, we count on many countries to assist us. We can’t do it alone.
Your sense of any of the issues I’ve raised in this short column is totally up to you. I believe that we have responsibility for others, that we are our brother’s keeper. I embrace this view in response to my upbringing, but I also view it from a strong pragmatic sense. Your belief system tells you that I am wrong. Or you might ask of me important questions: For whom am I responsible? Why? For what period of time and in what ways?
I believe that we have a responsibility as American citizens to consider the pros and cons of the proposed solutions for the issues we face, to weigh those solutions carefully and to assign value to our support for our positions before we make our decisions. I also believe that we have a right to change our minds when we have considered and reconsidered our positions.
The person we elect as president for the next four-year term has responsibilities unlike many we have ever faced. As a country with the invasion of social media to add to the media of times past, we expect more (This is certainly not to indicate that the U.S. presidents of the past have not faced serious, horrific issues). Be certain that your values align primarily with the person whom you support, realizing that to expect 100 per cent concurrence is unrealistic.
In these chaotic times, I encourage you to monitor your health, physical and mental. Embrace those whom you love, and may your political debates be well- informed and civil.