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  • A Disappearing Government? We'd Better Hope Not

    • Posted on Nov 22, 2015
    Here's today's (Sun. 11-22) WCF Courier column on government, specifically, 
    how conservatives keep trying to undermine the very idea of government. 

    One memorable moment during the fourth Republican debate came from Rand Paul, when he asserted that “I want a government so small I can barely see it.” 

     That comment resonated powerfully with the debate audience.   
    In fact, Paul’s comment has long been a conservative mantra, ever since Republican superhero Ronald Reagan asserted in his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to a problem—government IS the problem.”  
    Rather strange, coming from the top government leader.  

    Thanks to Reagan, government became a scapegoat for the country’s complaints, and still is.   All current GOP contenders agree, loudly and often—government must basically disappear. The sooner the better.   

     Well, all except military and homeland security, what with recent ISIS attacks. Add police, fire, coast guard, and all the systems that keep them going.  Plenty of government needed there.   More, in fact, given current threats.  

     And we depend on social security, no question.   Leave that alone.  Oh yes, and Medicare, a successful program overall.  Wait, we need the National Weather Service in the Department of Commerce, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for tracking storms and long-term weather trends. 

     We’d better keep FEMA for helping with storm disasters, and the National Institutes of Health, which keeps track of diseases in the wake of storms and epidemics. Of course U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection program, given all the food-borne illnesses plaguing agriculture.  
    And so on—the list of needed government services could fill the rest of this page and more.  We the people need them all, and have been demanding them for decades. All developed countries demand them too, offering similar services and more, including more single-payer health care at vastly less cost.     

     The more we try to make government go away, the more out of step we are with contemporary world powers. 

     Here’s a hard truth:  Thanks to conservative anti-government rhetoric, many Americans and virtually all conservatives hate the idea of “government.”  They hate everything about it, from bureaucrats to politicians to regulations to taxes to “waste and fraud,” which they equate directly with government.   

    Tea Party conservatives, in fact, have almost done what Rand Paul envisions: they’ve made government so small we can hardly see it.  They’ve mostly blocked and stalled.   

     Yet both conservatives and liberals love the services government offers, from medical care to education to infrastructure to military protection.   That hasn’t changed, in spite of conservatives’ virulent anti-government rhetoric. 

     Here’s the bad news:  without a government, we have no country.  Anyone who thinks differently doesn’t pay attention.   

     Another hard truth: taxes—hated, reviled, scorned, despised taxes, are the dues we pay for having a country. The sooner we think “dues” when we hear “taxes,” the better off government will be, meaning the better off we all will be. 

     For a good read about why taxes are actually “dues,” and much more, check out “Government is Good: An Unapologetic Defense of a Vital Institution,” a 2011 book by Douglas Amy. 

     Amy develops and supports the case for government being the institution 
    that does by far the most good for our culture and world.  All complaints about it simply fall apart on examination, as he clearly reveals.       

     Yes, government is flawed.  Yes, it overreaches at times. Yes, it contains waste and corruption.  But so do corporations, which must be regulated or they run amuck.  Witness Volkswagen’s recent fraudulent testing of their diesel engines.  

     So it’s high time to stop acting as though government is the problem. 
    Those who have been demonizing it all these years have created a worse problem. 

     Think government is expensive?  Try going without it—as in Mad Max movies.    
    Or feudal Europe.  Or current Libya.   

     You’d come back screaming for it.   

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Conservatives/Liberals
  • Transgender Explained

    • Posted on Nov 08, 2015
    Here's this morning's (11-8) Courier column.   I really had never understood what "transgender" means until I met Ellen Krug and read her book Getting to Ellen. I found it utterly engaging and clear, and can't recommend it highly enough.  

    Ask a roomful of people what “transgender” means, and you’ll get mostly blank stares.People might know “transgender” as the “T” in “LGBT” for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people, but haven’t the faintest notion what it actually means.  

    As a child I had heard of Christine Jorgensen, the American GI who underwent gender transformation in the early 1950s.  For weeks her “case” caused consternation worldwide, since she underwent experimental sex-change surgery in Denmark.  She may as well have arrived from another planet.    

     Of course we all know that Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn, who declared “For all practical purposes, I am a woman.” She’s currently the most well-known transgender woman ever, the most successful at publicizing her journey.   
    “Normal” men and women find gender changing freaky, downright bizarre.

    Yet it happens, and we’re small-minded to condemn the Caitlyn Jenners of the world for their choices.  To transgendered people, it’s life and death.  And when you listen to what they’re saying, they’re right.  

     As the bard declares, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophies.  Open-minded curiosity is a better attitude.   

     So I’ve felt curious about “transgender,” but mostly ignorant.  
    Then I heard Ellen Krug, whose 2013 memoir “Getting to Ellen” details her long transformation from male to female.  “Ellie” spoke on a panel at a writer’s conference at the Marion Public Library I attended last month, and we spoke briefly afterwards.  

    She was funny, engaging, articulate, and passionate about her journey.  

     She made so much sense speaking as a woman on the panel that I bought and read “Getting to Ellen.” 

     For anyone who’s curious, or who has struggled with the real and profound issue of gender identity, Krug’s book offers the perfect introduction. 

     Krug writes conversationally, with wit, energy, and such personal honesty that I felt only admiration. It’s full disclosure on every page. 

     As a seven-year-old boy he learned graphically that boys and girls were different.  He felt different too.  He found himself drawn to females, not by attraction, but by identification.  Ed, the intelligent seven-year-old, knew that he wanted to be a girl.  
    Those who believe that Ed Krug made a choice to become female need to read “Getting to Ellen.”   She in fact had no real choice.   

     Instead, Ed Krug chose only to deny and avoid his sense of being female. For  decades.  

     Born in 1956 in New Jersey, his family relocated to Cedar Rapids when he was 11. A very bright guy, he eventually graduated from Boston College Law School, then became a high-powered lawyer known as “Killer Krug.”  He succeeded at outwitting, outthinking, and outprosecuting other lawyers, and became a respected and feared attorney.  

     Oh yes, along the way he married Lydia, his childhood sweetheart.  They adopted two children and lived happily, but not ever after. 

     After five years in Boston, Ed and Lydia Krug moved back to Cedar Rapids.  Ed joined another law firm and continued his successes.  Yet he felt nothing but angst.  

     Depressed, even suicidal, numbing himself with alcohol, Krug realized that he couldn’t go on living a false life.  He tried dressing up as a woman and even “passed” as female at times.  But it didn’t change anything.     

     That word “authentic” comes up as a critical life goal in “Getting to Ellen.”  Living a false life offers nothing but psychological hell.     

     Gradually, with massive fortitude and perseverance, Krug began admitting that he could not live inauthentically.  Finally, after divorcing Lydia and undergoing serious medical procedures, she became Ellen in 2009, and completed the surgery in 2010.  

     Though she regrets the years of pain and indecision and hurt, she hasn’t for a moment regretted becoming herself.   

     We can only cheer.   


    Go comment!
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