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home : opinion : columnists January 18, 2017

1/16/2013 4:16:00 PM
Re-examining my new year's resolution

Bill Forhan

The ink was barely dry on my New Year's resolution editorial when the phone began to ring and the emails started hitting my in-box. It seems neither side liked the idea.

It's probably a sign of how divided we have become that neither side apparently wants to hear what the other has to say on an issue. But that is precisely why I decided I needed a new approach. Both sides have called for a more civil tone to the debate, but neither side is willing to practice it. It seems the need to demonize the opposition has replaced reasoned debate. The result is that neither side listens or respects the other.

To complicate matters even more, media options have exploded and many people today find their "news" in a lot of different places. Too often those places are highly partisan, spinning the "news" to support their personal views. It is a serious problem for our democracy if we cannot learn to listen to each other and be able to cut through the propaganda and hype, or when the information conflicts with our view of the issue our first response is to attack the motives and intelligence of the messenger.

In his Gettysburg address, Abraham Lincoln inspired generations by saying our government is, "of the people, by the people and for the people." Many believe that famous quote was inspired by an abolitionist preacher by the name of Theadore Parker who said in a sermon in 1858 that, "Democracy is direct self-government over all the people, for all the people, by all the people."

Sadly, despite calls to respect diversity, we have traded Parker's and Lincoln's vision for the tyranny of the winning majority while the political minority is attacked for being obstructionist, out of touch bores who are trapped in the past.

I still believe Americans are better than that, but we have serious issues to address. Issues that cannot be solved by name calling or simply supporting politicians who are masterful at heart tugging sound bites without any substance. Or worse, politicians whose only campaign strategy is rooted deep in the politics of personal destruction and character assassination.

Our current approach to addressing our common problems is not working. Our country is approaching bankruptcy - not just financially but morally. There are no easy solutions. If there were the problems would have been solved by now.

No, real progress in fixing our economy will take hard work and dedication. Not just from our leaders but also from each one of us who will need to be engaged and who will need to look at the challenges with open minds.

It should be clear that making more laws and more regulations has not solved our problems. We have been fighting the war on poverty for over 50 years. We have been fighting the war on drugs for almost that long. We have been working to become energy independent since the Carter administration. And every politician in every election says they will work to improve education.

The result is we are pouring more and more of our wealth into government. We have less freedom and the problems continue to grow. Poverty continues to be a problem. Dependence on foreign oil is worse than it was in the seventies, and our students are not as well educated as they once were. It's not that government employees are bad people. Most of them are dedicated hard working people, but the nature of government is to expand and the nature of politicians is simply to respond to the loudest and often least informed.

Our current deficit spending programs are not only unsustainable they are morally corrupt. In effect they result in generational theft by forcing our children and grandchildren to pay for the excesses of this generation.

Our current energy policies are especially egregious. We blame oil for foreign wars while banning the development of our own resources. The result is we end up sending most of our national treasure to some of the worst dictators in the world. We say we despise racism, sexism and terrorism but we look the other way when we need their oil.

We need to start working together to build an America that is truly for all the people not just the current majority or the loudest minority. We must build an America that doesn't pit one group against another. We must find a way to abandon the politics of personal destruction and demonization.

We must learn to encourage each other to examine the issues with an open mind and celebrate those who can challenge the "conventional" wisdom in a positive way.

Unless we do, our country is bound to end up on the ash heap of the other great societies that have preceded ours.

Bill Forhan can be reached at 509-548-5286 or

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