Balancing Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness


Several years ago I read a book entitled, What’s the Matter With Kansas? It was a discussion of politics in America. It speaks to the issues that confront us all; taxation, unions, gun control, abortion, etc. All those hot-button issues that garner votes. It’s not just Kansas. It’s everywhere.  Like, what’s the matter with Wisconsin? They elected these people—why?

Clearly, it has not been in their best interest! For weeks, their government, their duly elected government, has been at a stand still. An impasse over the budget. Democrats fled the state – stood their ground. Fines were imposed. Jobs threatened. The governor, a first term republican, tried to make it look as if it would be the fault of those refusing to vote for something they believed was not in the best interest of the people who elected them.

After weeks of fanfare, protests, front page headlines, the Wisconsin state government passed their budget bill – without any of the financial considerations included. Cause, you know, that makes sense. Budget with no finance.

The system usurped.

The people of Wisconsin robbed. Cheated.

Politicians pander to single issue voters, and look where that gets us… In order to have a healthy government, we have to have an electorate that votes in a rational way. All too often voters in the United States vote against their best interests. Single issue voters skew the polls. They disrupt the balance. Cheat us all.

My 84yr old mother, god bless her little heart, votes republican in every election, because that’s the anti-abortion party. She often chides me saying, “no, no, they’re not anti-abortion, they’re pro-life.”

Not so much. Pro-life is a propaganda term. Pro-life would mean anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, anti-gun, anti-war. It would mean pro-universal health care (including birth control – which doesn’t necessarily mean unlimited access to abortion at the government’s expense), nationalized education, equal rights. A pro-life movement would insure that her medications were affordable.

And it’s not just conservatives in on the game. Liberals have their hot-buttons. Pro-choice is the opposite of pro-life. Let’s buy these folks a dictionary. These are completely unrelated words…

I am, as most of you know, liberal at heart. In my perfect universe, no one would worry about the cost of healthcare, schools would deliver the same education everywhere, women’s earnings would be equal to  men’s… But, it’s not the world according to the liberal mindset – and it shouldn’t be the world according to the conservative either.

Our laws should be based on the compromise and balance that suits the majority best. The newest conversation is the “radicalization of the Muslim extremist.”

What about the rest of the extremists? The Tea-party? Those who would like to see a Christian Nation? Anarchists? Westboro Baptist Church? The Minutemen Border Patrol? The Ku Klux Klan?

National sanity (thus security) lies in the middle; the middle class, the centrist… the individuals willing to compromise. We are a nation built on the notion that there is a middle ground; that we can find that balance – we have checks and balances…

If we don’t check our government with conscientious, many faceted votes there can be no balance. With no balance there will be no liberty… And we are all denied the pursuit of happiness.

What has been playing out in Wisconsin should be seen as a warning to us all. It may be coming to your state sooner than you think. Human history has a way of repeating itself. Think about another time extremism took center stage…

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

I’m sure the people of Wisconsin feel there is no one left to speak for them today. And the rest of us dangle in a more fragile balance…

It’s Lent, let’s give up insanity.

Word Count: 701

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6 thoughts on “Balancing Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

  1. Damn, you make way too much sense even to this centerist-moderately conservative person who recognizes that to have a budget you need a way to finance it. Public or private. Here in MA with our 95% (D) legislature, we make noise about the liberal things they approve, but they have never chaced the R’s out of state

  2. Mel, I always enjoy reading this blog. I hardly ever agree with you on politics, but that just goes to show that two good people will not always agree. My thoughts on this post are as follows:

    You said, “Democrats fled the state – stood their ground.” Isn’t this an oxymoron? Shouldn’t they have stayed and just voted NO? The Republicans were swept into office, just like at the national level, by telling voters they would cut waste and balance budgets. You also said, “Wisconsin elected them. Clearly, it has not been in their best interest!” It may not be in the best interest of the Teachers, Police, and other members of the Public Unions, but it clearly is in the best interest of the millions of other Wisconsin citizens who only see outrageous pay, golden health care, paid holidays, vacation….the things they pay for, but never seem to get to enjoy. Many of the Unions who got out the vote to pass Health Care Reform have now been exempted from that same law. It seems like the Democrats lost the election and had so little support that they had to bus protesters in from out of state to convince everyone that they held the moral high ground. Why shouldn’t the public sector employees share the pain with the rest of us? They don’t pay enough towards their retirement or their health care and they get every holiday off with pay and the poor taxpayer pays the bill.

    You also said, “What about the rest of the extremists? The Tea-party? Those who would like to see a Christian Nation? Anarchists? Westboro Baptist Church? The Minutemen Border Patrol? The Ku Klux Klan?” Mel, you would lump me in with the KKK or Westboro? I belong to the Tea Party and I am proud of it. How come asking the congress to play by the Constitution is extremist? I think the government is way too big and clumsy and ineffective. I think re-distribution of wealth is Socialist at best and Communist at worst.

    You also said, “Our laws should be based on the compromise and balance that suits the majority best.” If the Republican party won a landslide then it would seem that the majority wants what the Republican party offered, yet you disagree with that. So, is it whatever suits the majority best as long as you (or like thinking others) belongs in the majority? Wisconsin voted for the people they have. If more honest working people were willing to use fake doctors notes to get off work to protest, but wait, most people don’t get 2 or 3 sick-days a month to fritter away on protesting , so the perception is the the Republicans don’t have support, but they do.

    • I am happy we can agree that we disagree, Steve. I know you see yourself as a Tea Party person — but EVERY other Tea Partier I have encountered has been an extremist, unwilling to listen… And that is not you.

      The Wisconsin democrats left only after their counterparts refused to broker ANY sort of compromise.

      Without strong public servants (teachers, police, etc) the private sector will quickly cave in on itself. And teachers and police are hardly living the golden life. Really. Police officers are always trying to pick up extra shifts to make ends meet. And Teachers almost universally do some sort of side job, tutoring, summer school… They are high stress-low return jobs that (mostly) dedicated individuals take on.

      Protesters were bussed into Wisconsin — because this is going to spread like wildfire, and it is bad for our entire nation, not just Wisconsin. It wasn’t about the local numbers — it was about the aftershocks of this action. And the Union members in Wisconsin, it turns out, pay ALL of their own retirement — it is not subsidized. And they pay the bulk of their health insurance. My father, uncles and brother were all policemen — hey don’t get every holiday off — they don’t get ANY holidays off. Teachers do, but so do bankers…

      I don’t think we have had a majority election in this country in our lifetime (which is another whole blog — one that I think would find us in agreement!). And the “poor taxpayer” is the middle class that is getting crushed in the crossfire! Me and you. All of our protections are being eaten away, our kids will be poorly educated… Jobs will evaporate… So much of the middle class feels powerless. So they don’t vote (voter turnout — for both parties — is almost always below 50%) — or they are angry with those in power so they vote for the other party… Most American adults could not pass a civics exam — or citizenship exam… Or they are voting on one issue…

      The whole system needs help, right and left. And before we implode (like countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East) we need to start listening to each other. I don’t think the majority is extreme. I don’t think I’m extreme. I do think–know–that to survive as a nation we need to begin to LISTEN to each other. We need to begin to FIND that middle ground that allows us to have rational, adult conversations about topics about which we have differences. We need to learn, as a nation, to compromise. Because the majority IS that middle ground that feels like they need to take a stand on this or that…

      People are being pushed to one side or the other — damn it — we’re ALL Americans. We should all be striving for the same things… Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… We may–will–differ on the path to that. We must find a way to be willows and not oaks, because that’s what creates liberty and justice for everyone.

      Ok, I’ll stop ranting.

  3. Great read, Mel. Good point about how those who call themselves “pro-life” are not, really. And your grandmother sould know that the Rebplicans don’t give a rat’s ass about abortion or a fetus for that matter. They will never out law it because then they’d have to talke about real issues.

  4. Mel, as you know I was brought up to know that voting republican wasn’t in my best interest. I know what fed me, took care of me when I was sick and so much more. It was my fathers Union!
    Teachers have never been over paid. If feel that they have always been under paid. Taking money from Education doesn’t just hurt the teachers. It hurts our children. Here in FL we are currently trying to recall our Gov. He is trying to take millions from Education. He used the reason of the budget. We found out that the budget is a lie. He admitted in the State to State address that the money won’t be going back into the budget. He is going to use it for Corporate tax cuts.
    Stephen King spends his winters here in FL and he spoke at one of the rallies against our Gov. ” Do you like getting paid a livable wage? Thank a Union Man!” Stephen king among many others have said it. I am afraid soon it will be too late.

  5. WOW! I just read your terrific message, Mel. I also read the replies and must say that everyone, even the “admitted Tea Party member”, presented their positions clearly, succinctly, and for the most part with tact (especially considering the volitility of ‘passionate believers today). I’m not sure I can do as good a job but must add something.

    First, I agree with everything you wrote, Mel. The pro-life/pro-choice debate for many (not all) is nothing more than labels designed and used to promote a party stance on which politicians depend. This is true of so many of the issues today.

    I cannot understand how the Republican Party, including the Tea Party, have the audacity to raise ‘social issues’ again at this time after the behaviors and examples of their leaders and ‘the mess’ in which they left us.

    Back to the abortion issue, though. Republicans as a group consistently object to intrusion by the Federal Government into the life of citizens and yet, how intrusive can a government be if they determine what a woman can or cannot do with her own womb. Please don’t get me wrong. I certainly do not promote abortion – especially as a method of birth control – but I cannot condemn those that sincerely believe their own situation demands a cessation of a particular pregnancy. I truly wondered during the Bush Administration what Pres. & Mrs. Bush would have done if one of their twins had become pregnant as a result of her own actions at the age of eighteen or younger. Perhaps, the family would have stuck by their party’s platform or perhaps not. If they had not, they had the means to have the situation handled out of the country, if necessary, so why would they care what legislation is passed in regard to abortion.

    Then Alaskan Governor and VP candidate, Sarah Palin, stood by her daughter, Crystal. As a matter-of-fact, she stood next to her on every platform she could find. She managed to help her pregnant daughter start a career by first parading her around the country without hesitation. The fact that her daughter defied everything that Sarah supposedly believed in and that “forbidden” pre-martial sex was involved became irrelevant, as was the fact that her daughter had not graduated from high school and, to date, has shown no indication of pursuing college or other form of career oriented higher-education. Let’s face it though, Crystal Palin profited from the birth of Sarah Palin’s illegimate grandchild. I can think of no other reason for her engagement as a speaker, her embarassing attempts to dance in a TV contest, or for anyone to buy a book that she ‘reportedly’ is writing.

    Why I am surprised though. After all, look at the Cheney family. I’m sure VP and Mrs. Cheney love their children very much, but they condemn every other homosexual (Gay or Lesbian) except their own daughter. Here again, they actively recruited their daughter (and her paramour) to appear with them on the campaign trail and during official events before and after every election in which they participated.

    Gee! I’ve gotten through six paragraphs and have not called any Republican a hypocrite. That’s a record for me. I’d better close this though because I feel it coming on. I could go on-and-on-and-on with examples which “show not tell” my true feelings and application of that very label.

    Have a Great Day … and keep writing.

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