Friday, October 4, 2013

Tear Down The Barricades

150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln ended the Gettysburg Address with, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Today, our government barricades our national monuments to prevent our citizens, including our aging veterans, from paying their respects to the heroes and heroines of our nation. Monuments that only saw temporary barriers following 9-11 now are blocked not due to threat, but because the administration wants to score political points.

The national mall is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; until now. The multitude of monuments commemorating great Americans, war heroes, and momentous events are open during the worst weather, during protests, and during previous government shutdowns. Yet our government is paying to barricade us from connecting with our heritage, paying our respects, and learning about our history because federal employees are furloughed. 

Lincoln did understand that the government is one of the people, by the people, and for the people. The actions of our government this week are ones of government over the people. Regardless of which party you are rooting for, no matter whether you want more or less government spending, denying our citizens access to our, and I mean our, national monuments is unacceptable.

Mr. President, please tell the Park Service to tear down those barricades! They belong to the American people! Those we elect and those hired to manage, maintain, and protect these treasures, work for us. No one has the right to deny citizens access to our monuments.

Whoever decided that punishing the American people in order to gain political advantage should lose their job.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Needed; Solutions not Blame

Reading and listening to the daily news and seeing and hearing what people write and talk about, then comparing that with what is going on in the world makes one wonder about our society’s priorities. Do we know what is important anymore?

This morning, our federal government partially shut down. Our President has stated that he will not negotiate, yet he places all blame on the opposition party. The Senate leadership just says, “no” to everything coming out of the House. The House passes multiple continuing resolutions to fund the government, but because the Senate refuses to consider them, one party is characterized as “doing nothing.” 

Our nation faces many serious problems ranging from out of control spending and debt to a lack of civility and tolerance of differences of opinion. 

Where, oh where are the “grown ups” now? When I was young, I had the example of adults who acted as grown ups. They worked together, they sought solutions, and they knew that they didn’t get to have everything their way. Hard work, honesty, and the milk of human kindness were their foundation.

It seems that there are not a lot of “grown ups” in politics. Partisan advantage, bickering for press coverage, and name calling seem to be far more important than finding solutions that help Americans.  Is it about blame, feeling good, and getting your own way? Is seeking viable solutions not really the goal?

Yet there are far more than politicians engaged in this behavior. Look at the disrespect shown to others in your state, in your community, and even in the organizations you choose to belong to. 

It is time for each American to put aside childish attitudes and begin the process of seeking solutions rather than seeking how to blame others. Stand up and be a leader who embraces differences of opinion and looks for the common ground. America needs more grown ups right now and hard work, honesty, and a kind spirit will do much good today. Anyone can demonize others, we need more people who seek solutions without assigning blame.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Controversy and Courage

It is fascinating to watch what is happening in the world today. The news media often decides for us what is worth reporting and what isn’t. The internet means anything you say or do, can become instant knowledge around the world. The mob mentality is often reinforced by the web as those who agree with you can cheer you on, while disagreement can garner name calling and disrespect.

It seems if you take a controversial position or stand, the thoughts, reflection, and discussions that went into that decision, become moot to some. If you dare disagree, then you’re ill-informed, wrong, or perhaps just stupid.

Some controversy is due to complex issues which defy easy solutions and in some cases measurement.  Some are politically charged issues. Others are due to political correctness where some are offended just by the discussion. More and more public issues include elements of all three.

Just bring up the topic of climate change, changing the definition of marriage, or GMO seed in any group and see the variety of opinions. In many cases, you’ll find someone who is passionate about the issue and often you’ll find passion on opposing sides. Some people choose to avoid any topic that engenders controversy in the vain hope of avoiding conflict.

In the Grange, controversy is a good thing as our members are supposed to be willing to listen to the other side. We view differences of opinion as opportunities to learn from each other, to see the issue from different points of view.

Controversy can become a bad thing in an organization. When members don’t have the courage to listen to opposing views, when we call members names or cast doubt upon their character because they have pluck enough to advocate against “our” position, or when members refuse to acknowledge facts that challenge their ideas. We see this negative trait in our society nearly every day.

But it doesn’t have to ever be a bad thing. Science can now measure the world in ways we cannot visualize, we have more data than we can absorb and understand, and many people are worried or frightened about how the world is going to handle technology in the future. Hollywood and Sci-Fi writers have made fortunes with doom and gloom scenarios, yet history shows most advances benefit society and people.

Just as scientists revise their views when new evidence appears, so must we as citizens and Grangers have the courage to engage in civil discussion and debate, keep an open mind, and often have our organization take a thoughtful position that is in the midst of controversy. Without taking positions, we would be like so many other groups that avoid topics that engender passion and action.  Yet when we take a position on any topic, we must always be willing to review and reconsider those actions in the face of new information.

In addition, we must have the courage to abide decisions against us and yet work within the broad boundaries of our laws and rules, both in our government and in our organizations to educate others. Controversy can either strengthen the due processes of an organization or government or create great divides between people. The answer is for all to develop the courage to work through the issues while remaining friends.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Independence Day Should Remind Us of Our Duty As Citizens

It is a special thing to be an American Citizen. We are blessed to live in a country where a person can achieve whatever they are willing to work for in education or career. We are a nation governed not by men or women, but by laws that apply to each person equally. Every person is entitled to their own opinion and can voice it as loudly as they choose. We can join together with others to worship, to accomplish civic causes, or simply to spend some relaxation time.

For those of us who were born as Americans, we should be grateful and amazed as we watch so many in the world trying to enter our nation and become citizens. We should not be complacent about, or take for granted, what this unique nation stands for.

The fourth of July, Independence Day, should be a day that reminds us of our duty as citizens.  We should be informed and involved.

Being an informed citizen includes understanding who we are as Americans and what our history is. 237 years of history is a lot of knowledge, but every citizen should understand why our founders broke from England and what it cost in life and treasure. What was manifest destiny? What were the major causes of our Civil War? Woman’s suffrage, civil rights, and so many other issues that our nation had to work through, need to be understood. It isn’t history, it is how we became who we are as a people.

I would not presume to say any group of people are more or less patriotic, but consider the fact that rural Americans volunteer at the highest percentage rate for joining the military. 

It is our duty as Americans to be involved. We should vote, but do our research and form our own opinions before doing so. We should be involved in the party of our choice and work to influence them. We should give back to others by giving of both time and money. Joining organizations, such as the Grange, becomes a powerful way of giving back for what we have, as well as paying it forward to the next generation.

I believe that the Declaration of Independence should be read in public every year and then we should spend some time discussing with our youth what it means. It doesn’t take men and women in black robes to tell us what it means, it is right there in black and white.

Being an American is a blessing and confers upon each of us great privileges, rights, and duties.  So many today, speak of the privileges and rights. This year let’s reflect upon the duties as well.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Farms the new frontier of terrorists?

Over the space of two nights this month, the sugar beet crop in two fields in Jackson County, Oregon, was destroyed. Someone, or a number of somebodies, chose to destroy a valuable crop, likely because it consisted of beets that had been genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup, a herbicide.

It would be nice to see the criminals who did this caught, and according to reports by the Oregonian, the FBI is taking the case seriously.  They have deemed the case "economic sabotage and a violation of federal law involving damage to commercial agricultural enterprises," according to the report of reporter Kimberly A.C. Wilson of the Oregonian, the only major media outlet so far to report on the issue from what I can tell.

Farmers do their best to manage weather risk (they can and do lose part or all of their crops due to weather), volatile markets (prices often drop when the crop does well), government regulations (which get more onerous each year), and common problems like theft but the wanton destruction of a year’s crop by criminal activity can’t be planned or managed.

Grange members stand united against what amounts to terrorism against our American farmers. No matter what crops our farmers choose to raise, no matter what animals our farmers choose to nurture, if it is legal American farmers deserve to be able to supply their fellow citizens with that product. It doesn’t matter if you are an animal rights or anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) believer, actions such as these are unacceptable and criminal.

I have a hunch that those who committed this crime are operating on emotion. I’ve heard a lot of argument against the use of GMOs over the last couple of years. While I believe that everyone has a right to their own opinion, when someone claims that GMOs will cause the death of the human species, any middle or common ground is hard to find, and facts to support that argument are hard to find. Every peer-reviewed scientific study I have seen or heard of shows that no difference can be seen between the end product of a natural seed, a naturally modified seed, or an engineered seed.

The National Grange has debated the issue of GMOs for a number of years and from those debates we have created our current policy. We support the use of GMO seed and want studies on their safety to continue. It is a pragmatic viewpoint and yet one that is based upon the available facts and science. I am sure that it will continue to be discussed and debated in our organization and by the public for many years to come. As new studies are conducted, their results will be included in the policy development process of the Grange.

It is good to have passion, but if we allow that passion to overshadow logic and facts we will see more crimes such as this one in Jackson County. It is our duty to engage in discussion and debate the issues of the day. Through this process we only stand to learn from each other.

The Grange stands in support of the American farmer, especially those who are the victims of terrorist acts like this one because of the crop they’ve chosen to plant. Every American should join us in condemning criminal acts like the one reported.