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  • We Should Have Known

    • Posted on Dec 06, 2015
    Here's this Sunday's (12-6) Waterloo Courier column--instances of being blind to what's right in front of us.  The new film Spotlight reveals this, as does my own rather shameful experience with smoking, and Republicans' continued support of Donald Trump.  We should know, and should have known,  

    Why do we often miss what’s right in front of us?  We have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear, as the Bible so memorably puts it.    

    Three instances worth pondering: 

     First,  “Spotlight,” a disturbing new film about the Catholic Church’s cover-up of pedophile priests in Boston.  It’s a horrific scandal that shook the Church to its foundations worldwide.   

     Four smart and motivated Globe investigative reporters—the “Spotlight” team, grew ever more amazed in 2001-2 when they uncovered Church policies that enabled priests to continue abusing children for decades.  The power of Boston Catholic church officials was all but absolute.  

     Yet the film reveals that the scandal could have been exposed much sooner had these same reporters been paying attention. During their investigation, they learn that they ignored hard evidence sent in by victims—at least a decade earlier.  

     One of many victims, in frustration, tells the reporters flat-out:  “I sent you all the facts years ago. But you buried it.”    

     These conscientious investigative reporters are dumbfounded. Why didn’t they pursue it when they first received it?  Many more victims would have escaped trauma had they paid attention.    

     They can’t explain their inattention.  In so many words, they admit “we should have known.”  

     Besides being a severe indictment of the church hierarchy for actively allowing crimes against children to continue, “Spotlight” reveals how those who ignore evidence share some of the guilt.  

     “Good Germans,” as one of the reporters sheepishly admits, referring to those German citizens who went along with the insanity that gripped Germany for over a decade. 

     Second, I remember with shame my own guilt in UNI classrooms, on a vastly smaller scale, of smoking in class during the 1970s. I would even occasionally bum cigarettes from students who seemed happy to share.  Many others did too.   

     Now we would be kicked off campus and fined, and rightly so.   

     We didn’t see polluted classroom air right in front of us. We should have known.  
    Groupthink, peer pressure, everyone’s doing it, all contribute to explaining it.  But that’s not all.   

    In fact we’re not convinced at the time it was really wrong.  What’s a little friendly smoking between scholars?  And in “Spotlight,” what’s a little priestly indiscretion compared to all the good the church does?  That’s exactly what the Catholic Cardinal of the Boston Archdiocese tells the reporter in “Spotlight.” 

     We have to be deeply and finally convinced, in our heart of hearts, that no rationalizations justify the actions we’re witnessing.   

     Finally, and all but inevitably, we should know by now about Donald Trump.   He has announced his intentions loudly and clearly, many times over.  They’re bigoted, impractical, embarrassing, foolhardy ideas.  As some of his fellow Republicans assert, “He’s not a serious candidate.”  

     When questioned about his exaggerations, distortions, and outright lies—often by Republican candidates—he goes into bully mode, shouting and repeating. He’s a master of the “big lie” strategy that steamrolls those who want to believe.  Worse, he plays off current terrorism fears and gins up patriotic fervor—sure-fire triggers for angry and fearful supporters.  

     They say “He gets things done.”  “Fact checkers are biased themselves.”  “He’s not politically correct, but that means he’s free to tell the truth.”   “He’s not beholden to big money.”   All rationalizations.  All false.   

     Here’s a man whose shameless, egomaniacal blowhardiness knows no bounds, and his button-pushing has garnered support from Americans who should know better.  

    I’m waiting for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich—relatively reasonable candidates—to come out and say they’d vote for Hillary before Trump.

     It won’t happen.  But it’s what they already should have done.  

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Conservatives/Liberals
    • Personalities
    • Education
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
  • 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
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