This Adult Apologizes…

This Adult Apologizes…

To America’s kids:

On behalf of America’s adults – particularly my fellow Baby Boomers (who are still mostly in charge of government & industry) – I want to apologize for the trauma you regularly experience from gun violence; we have failed you.

I apologize for the legislators who could protect your safety through common sense gun regulations that the vast majority of voters support, but instead place their own careers ahead of your lives.

adult apology

I apologize for the nation’s responsible gun owners who, rather than fight for your safety by standing up to the NRA (which represents gun manufacturers), stay silent.

I apologize for the adults who, out of an irrational fear of having their guns taken from them if arms are better regulated, put these groundless fears ahead of your real ones.

I apologize for the adults who would rather turn your schools into prison-like fortresses and compel you to endure active shooter drills than ban semi-automatic weapons.

adult apology 1

I apologize for those in governance who cite mental health as the problem, yet refuse to fund mental health services.

And finally, I apologize in advance for any who say I don’t speak for them, because by doing so, admit to being part of the problem.

It’s up to you, kids.  If/when you’re old enough, you must not just march, but vote; at any age you must not just cry, but continue to hold adults accountable.

Because we’re clearly not able to do it for you.

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Boomer Mojo; Our Time Has Come Again

The guest on this past week’s show (11/6/11: David Mills, author of 10000 Days: A Call to Arms for the Baby Boom Generation that asks of us “what do we plan to do with the last 10K productive days we have left after turning 50?”) believes we Boomers can use our past activist experience, combine it with the wisdom (hopefully) and decades of knowledge we’ve accumulated, and once again fix what’s wrong with our country.

This inspired me to ask this question of our followers on the show’s FB page: “Do you think we Boomers still have the collective to power to make great changes to society like we did in our youth?”  (feel free to go to the page and be heard)

Here’s a few of the responses:

  • “We have the collective power to make tremendous change. Need strong leadership and lots of people talking and sharing ideas.”
  • “We can and we are…”
  • “Sorry I believed we did in my youth but in the end I don’t feel we made a difference.”

Now, admittedly we’ve gotten the proverbial bad rap from the younger generations, feeling that we pursued what was in our own best interest at everyone else’s expense.  And indeed, as I mentioned in my last post, once we got into positions of power, we did all the things we derided our elders for doing (bespoiling the land for profit; taking kick-backs for influence; filling our corporate coffers at the expense of our workers’ well-being) – only bigger and with less discretion.

But as a generation, we also propelled more positive societal changes than any other generation in the history of our nation.  Hey, younger ones, enjoy the freedom to live together before you get married, and divorce without societal derision if you find you married the wrong person?  Thank us.  Ladies, glad you can no longer be overlooked for that big promotion simply because of your gender?  Thank your local Boomer.  And, for those of you who think clean air and water is a nifty idea, that river in Ohio would still be so toxic it’s on fire if not for our unwillingness to accept such polluting ways (for you kids, here’s the link for the back story on the burning river thing).

Well, my fellow Boomers, our time has come around again.  We have the numbers, the power, the finances, and the experience, to make this country proud.  We know how to use activism as an efficient tool for change.  Unfortunately, right now, the only members of our generation using it well are the members of the tea party (45% of which are white, male Boomers).  And I say “unfortunately” not because I disagree with their positions; it’s unfortunate because they are a minority of us – the rest of us are remaining dangerously disconnected from our immense ability to influence positive change.

Here is a brief list of powerful things we can do, individually and collectively, to regain our generational greatness as propellers of the social changes needed today, just as we so famously, and successfully did for those that were needed in the 1960’s/’70’s:

  • Lead by example
    Keep your promises; say what you mean/mean what you say; give more than you receive; be a mensch
  • Get involved in something that betters things
    Now that the kids are grown and if you’re not taking care of an elderly relative, give some of your time to something designed to make our world better, whether volunteering for a cause that tugs your heart, or pushing for needed changes in your community; at the very least, regularly communicate with your representatives so they know just what you want from them, and if you don’t get it, find someone who will do what you know needs doing
  • Agitate for changes to the way Congress handles our nation’s business
    A great place to start is by insisting on changes to the way Congress treats itself; if our little Princes & Princesses in DC are treated like the rest of us, we will have more true citizen representation – those who simply love the power will no longer want the job, and those who want the job will want to get the job done and go home.  Here’s a petition I’ve started circulating to insist on just such changes; download it, sign it, and pass it on: 
    Petition to Congress
  • Be a resource champion, not a resource hog
    Did you know that the improvements to the environment we fought for and won 40 years ago, are in the past few years being undone?  Air pollution is now worsening.  Go back to your roots of good earth stewardship; we can start with eliminating our own wasteful habits, from things a simple as reusing rather than immediately disposing, to driving a more fuel efficient car and downsizing everything.  And, become a proponent of both clean and renewable energy sources.

So, to that last respondent of the FB survey, I say; we absolutely made a difference – refusing to see our accomplishments, and build on them has been our mistake.

I believe it’s not a matter of being unable to make the changes we need, our children need, our grandchildren.

It’s a matter of being willing.

A Fairy Tale for the Silent Majority

Once upon a time, in a land that was the mightiest throughout the world, the people in charge known as “Boomers” became very disgruntled and returned to their roots of activism; well, actually, only a small number of them did, but the media made it seem like it was lots & lots of them…

Yes, the protestors, on the extreme of both sides of the political divide, became very ugly…ooops, uh, vocal… about their unhappiness with many things the rulers of the land were doing, things like:

  • Passing “health care reform” where the peoples’ money was to be used to keep lots & lots of loyal subjects from, well, dying because they couldn’t afford care
  • Or not passing the part of health care reform called the “public option” whereby all subjects get government backed insurance no matter what
  • Or being too hard…or too soft… on a problem called “illegal immigration” whereby millions of people from another land called “Mexico” sneak in without permission to get work that no one else wants, but also get publicly funded healthcare and education…

These protestors were portrayed by the mainstream media as representing what most people of the land believed.

But low and behold, they were actually:

  • only 24% of all Republican voters, and only 20% of all Democratic voters
  • Boomers who were overwhelmingly White & male
  • Boomers who were retired or semi-retired so they had lots of time on their hands
  • or Boomers who were unemployed so they had lots of time on their hands and they were really cranky…

The most widely publicized complaint made by a group of these protesting subjects was that government money spent on programs called “entitlements,” designed to help the people of the land, are bad…except the ones they use (like a thing called “Social Security,” a government program designed to help the aging people of the land…or something called “unemployment compensation,” a government program to help people pay their bills while they’re out of work…).

And they vowed to take their revenge on any of the land’s leaders who voted for any such programs like health care reform without a public option, or health care reform of any sort which some protestors believed wasn’t needed at all, since most of them would soon be eligible for a thing called “Medicare” – another government program providing medical coverage for older subjects…

Thus, over a short period of time, and with help from the entire range of main stream media, it appeared that a minority of the land’s subjects would be able to dictate what the majority would get & what they “should” believe.

But alack, what about the other 56%?  Where did they stand?  What did they want?  Why were their voices not resounding out across the land?

We don’t as yet know the answer, but the moral of the story is:

In a land where the majority rules, and that majority is a “silent” one, the many will see their fate sealed by the will of the few…and in any other land, that is called a “dictatorship.”

We want to know what you think of our fairy tale.

Warning to “Non-voters”

I want to address the concept of not voting, which many think is an effective way to show discontent with candidate choices or the system in general.

Boy is that a fool’s errand.  Similar to snipe hunting.

The classic  fool’s errand comes in three varieties: going after something that in reality is non-existent, trying to accomplish a task in an impossible way, or trying to accomplish an impossible task.  By any of these criteria, not voting as a form of “protest” qualifies.

Because not voting is a completely inane method for getting your point across…right up there with, say, not paying your credit card bill as a way to protest high interest rates, or not calling a plumber to fix the leak that’s flooding your bathroom as a way to protest high contractor costs… the entity you’re protesting either doesn’t care or doesn’t know the difference, and the only one you’re hurting…is you.

The problem is…our form of government relies on a nifty concept known as majority rule, yet in any given race, the highest voter turn out, particularly from Boomers, is anywhere between 38 & 47%; the 2008 Presidential race had the highest turnout seen since 1968…at 56.8%.  Pathetic, isn’t it?

Such abysmal turn-out means two things:

  1. we have turned into a minority rule form a government: candidates are voted in by a majority, but it’s a majority of a minority of all registered voters…and
  2. you’re letting folks you don’t know, choose for you…bet you wouldn’t do that with even the most inconsequential things, so why would you do it for something as unequivocally imperative as who leads our country/states/counties/etc.?

Now I’ll break it down one step further, so you can see who is doing the voting for you…:

  • Only about 33% of consistent voters know precisely who they want to win regardless of party affiliation, and vote based on a candidate’s actual record of accomplishments…
  • but another approximately 33% of those who vote regularly do so along strict party lines regardless of the candidate’s qualifications or leadership capability
  • the remaining approximately 33% are undecided, usually until the last few days, and base their vote almost solely on the ever so truthful and fact-filled campaign ads they see on TV, and their vote oftentimes can determine who wins….
  • This means that approximately 66% of those who vote are doing so not based on candidates’ track record and true leadership capabilities, but upon pure rhetoric or party affiliation – which is why we have the kinds of rampant unprofessional, unethical, and unlawful behavior on an ever increasing scale that we see regularly on Capitol Hill, and more often now on the State and local levels
  • If companies/business owners hired their top managers on the above basis, Enron would be the norm….
  • Bottom line – the laws and priorities of the most powerful country on the planet are set by folks who were elected by a minority of voters, 2/3 of whom chose these folks for all the wrong reasons…

This is 100% scarey…. And we’re responsible…not the political parties, not the PAC’s, not big business….us.  We can stop wondering why those who get elected to public office are better suited for the National Enquirer than the House/Senate floor.

So, my fellow Boomers, as I said last post, keep doing the same ineffective thing and you’ll keep seeing the same dismal results.

Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, but expecting a different outcome.

Or, perhaps it’s yet the best definition of a fool’s errand.

What do you think?  Let me know.

Forget “Voting “Em Out”: Here’s the Real Remedy for Bad Legislators

cleaning up Washington DCI think we know now that we can keep ’em in, or vote ’em out, and still get the same result:  our legislators do whatever they want once they’re in office…which is most assuredly whatever their highest bidders demand, no matter what was promised us on the campaign trail….right?

That’s because we’ve been approaching this from the wrong perspective: we’ve been “treating the symptom” rather than curing the disease.

And what is the disease that, if cured, will make our legislators much more beholdin’ to us, more connected to our reality vs. their insular world, and get them doing something of substance once in office?

I call it the “Royalty Syndrome.”  If we eliminate it, we will see the kinds of action we so deserve from our elected officials.

The Royalty Syndrome is based on the following facts of public office in the U.S., particularly on the national level (but we see it on the State & Local levels too, just to a degree that diminishes the farther from Washington they are):

  • Legislators are treated like…well…royalty…with all sorts of perks, assistants, deference, and special programs (like their own terrific health-care plan)
  • With such treatment and expectations, they quickly and easily lose focus on their constituents, replaced by a sense of self-importance
  • Once they’ve had a taste of such royal treatment, no way do they want to lose it…so they’ll do anything/everything to avoid that

Here’s the cure:

  • Eliminate their perks, from special health-care plans to town cars & loads of assistants (they can have one…just like other managers in the real world)
  • As a Legislator, your children must attend public school
  • Pay them the equivalent of the average wage-earner’s salary in the US, which is $81,400 according to the Census Bureau (members of Congress currently make $174,000)
  • They cannot travel by means other than public transportation (cabs in town, commercial airlines across country) and they must fly coach
  • They must read all bills before voting on them; “I didn’t know what I was voting for” can be grounds for serious sanction (after all, this is the main part of their job)
  • They must poll their constituents no less than 2X per year to get our input to all main issues before them for a vote.

There’s more we can add to the list, be these are great starters.

This does a number of things to hit the proverbial “reset” button back to true representation of us, not special interests:

  1. Eliminates those who run because they love power and prestige (which right now is almost everyone…I’ve always believed that anyone who wants the office is someone I wouldn’t want in it, because they desire it for the wrong reasons…)
  2. Replaces them with folks who don’t mind hard work, are not in it for self-aggrandizement, and will want to get in, get the job done, and get out
  3. Eliminates what is right now a very insular culture within the ranks of Legislators, fed and magnified by their “royal” treatment – when they are treated like the rest of us, they will act like “regular folks”
  4. Serves as a constant reminder that they are servants of the people, not Emirs

Only when our legislators are treated like the rest of us will they remember who we are, what their real purpose is, and what is needed by the majority of citizens.

So, my fellow Boomers, this is what you want to be pushing for, rather than staying with the same tired approach we’ve been using all of our adult lives, that simply hasn’t worked.

How’s that for change?