Tuesday, July 17, 2012

And I have some political views...

Okay, so I realize that this blog has become primarily a food blog.  But when I first started this blog I did it because I wanted to have a place to discuss things that were important to me. Obviously my waistline can tell you that food is definitely one of those things :) However, I also have other interests like child rearing, religion, politics, etc.  So hopefully with this preface you won't think the rest of this post is too random or crazy or boring.  It's just something that's been on my mind.

So, one more time, just so we understand one another...there is no recipe that follows this rant.  It's just a good ol' fashioned political post and it's about to get pretty soapboxy in here.  But don't worry I'll be back tomorrow for a tutorial about how to slice an avocado properly :)

I've been struggling lately with how "black and white" people try to make things during an election year.  The right says something ridiculous so the left counteracts by saying something equally ridiculous trying to prove the other side wrong.  I'm worried that we get so caught up in being "Republican" or "Democrat" that we don't stop to think about what we are actually saying or how it is coming across.

The latest case of this was sparked by President Obama's remarks in Roanoke over the weekend.  I'll quote him first before I comment further.  This is the part of the remarks I've seen posted over and over.

"Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

First of all, amen to the great teacher thing!  Not that the government has helped teachers out very much lately.  But seriously go give a great teacher a hug right now! I'll wait. Now I'll move on to my main point.  Do I agree with everything the President said here...no. But do I agree with a lot of it...yes! (shocked whispers) Could he have probably chosen his words more carefully and made his point better...yes.  But the thing that has really concerned me the most is some of the responses that I've seen to his remarks.

I know there is an entitlement problem in America right now.  I get that. I do.  But on the other end of the spectrum from the "everyone owes me everything" mentality is the "I did it all by myself" mentality.  And I'm sorry but that way of thinking is just as crippling as the first. Really, part of what President Obama is saying is true. If we really stop and think about our lives, all of us have had help along the way.  Maybe not from the government, maybe not financial help, but we all have support systems of some kind. Both seen and unseen.

In today's world just having parents who help teach you about hard work is a rare commodity.  I'm a hard worker.  I know that work is important and that working hard has very positively affected my life.  But I can also easily identify people and programs who have helped me get here.  First, I had parents who were involved in my life.  They valued education and hard work.  What if they didn't?  What if all the role models in my life hadn't taught me right from wrong?  Or didn't know how to work?  Or abused government programs to make a living?  Would I still be a hard worker?  I don't know.  And I think most people out there, if they are being truthful with themselves, don't know either because they've never been in that situation. This is  a good argument for being slow to judge.  Do we really want to condemn a generation based on the sins of their fathers? So yes, maybe I work harder at things than some people, but I had a lot of motivation to do that from positive role models in my life.

Some other examples: when I was in college I had to work early mornings cleaning the shared bathrooms in the freshman dorms in order to pay my tuition. (Hard work) But I also attended a church school where I enjoyed having a tuition bill that was about a quarter of the price that many of my friends paid at state schools.  And the reason my tuition was lower was because of the contributions of thousands of church members throughout the world.  My husband's employer (a government lab) paid for his graduate work.  My daughter has cerebral palsy and has received a lot of her therapies from a state funded program that employs P.T.s, O.T.s and speech therapists.  These are just a few of the ways I've been helped; saying that I did everything on my own would not only be ungrateful it would be untrue.  So yes, I'm a hard worker but I didn't get the life I have completely on my own.

Another point the President makes is that just because someone is less fortunate doesn't mean that they aren't a hard worker.  No matter how well we plan out our lives, any one of us can find ourselves in need of charity at any moment.  There are things that happen that you can't stop.  Health needs, loss of job, death in the family, etc.  But in argument, some people will say "yes, but I don't mind giving help to people who deserve it".  But don't we learn that true charity can come when we help people who maybe don't deserve it?  We can't just say people who succeed are workers and people who don't are lazy.  It is getting harder and harder to "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" so to speak.  Are there lazy people out there...sure.  But does that justify not giving government help to anyone?

I've also heard the argument "Give a man a fish, he eats for a day.  Teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime".  I understand the sentiment behind it.  But I just think it's a combination of the two.  It's important to teach people to fish but there is also a time to just give a man a fish.  If we want to get scriptural about it we could do that too.  Does God want us to work hard during our life? Yes!  But I also seem to remember that Christ handed out a free fish or two during his ministry without requiring anything back.  He didn't just feed people who agreed with him, he fed everyone who asked.

So basically what I'm saying is...I know most people, if they really stop to contemplate their life, are going to realize that each of us is profoundly affected by the sacrifices, large and small, of others.  And that sometimes we accomplish things as individuals and sometimes we accomplish things in a group.  All of us owe a debt of gratitude to the patriots who founded our country or to the men who've served in the armed forces.  And I know that most people realize these things, they just get so caught up in the party system that they end up saying things that they don't really mean.

I just can't seem to fit Christ's ministry into a single man-made political party.  It just doesn't fit.  His message was about love and about doing what is right.  Many of us have differing opinions about how best to do that within the realm of "politics".  So we each have a responsibility to make our personal beliefs mesh with our political beliefs.  And allow all men to do the same. 

My personal belief is that we need to find some balance before we are going to heal the wounds that are running rampant in our country.  At some point we are going to have to evolve past a two party system.  We have to stop thinking "what would the republicans do" or "what would the democrats say" and start thinking what do I, as a person, want to do and say.  Then maybe our leaders will be able to stop representing a party and get back to representing the people.  But in the meantime, try to look for the good in one another.  Each side has good points.  Don't say things you don't mean and can't take back.  Don't let yourself get sidetracked from the actual issues by getting caught up in the "media madness" of it all.  The media knows when something will make a ripple...a misquote, a stumble, etc.  They try and reel you in with things like "Republicans hate working moms" or "Democrats hate small business owners".  Take the time and research these issues for yourselves.  Don't just read one article about something and call it good.  Know your sources...because they each have their own slant.  Each of us has the right to vote our conscience and decide for ourselves what side of the issues we are on.  Don't just let Anderson Cooper make up your mind for you.  Although he is really attractive! (Seriously ladies, you know what I'm talking about).

So I'm not trying to say that the President was right about everything he said.  I'm not trying to say that he has all the right answers to those problems.  I'm just trying to remind everyone that it's not just cut and dry, right or wrong.  I think he made a lot of good points. "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together."

 I just don't want people to let "party affiliation" block them from seeing that sometimes the "other side" actually makes a little bit of sense. 

Soap Box over. Now it's your turn...discuss...


  1. You do make some good points...however, if that were only what he really meant. The real point, and the things he really believs are that you can't succeed with out the government. I pay taxes for the roads and the bridges, but those things do not make me get up in the morning and go to work and work hard all day long -- we pay for those things as part of the social contract, which is seperate from the individual's desire to work and the outcome of that work. I went to the same school as you, but in the end, it was me and me alone that did the work, that made the grade and that typed all of those dang papers --- I did make my own sucess, and I also made my own failures on occasion. The reason he's saying this is to set up what he wants to do...which is redisribute wealth, demonize and tax "the rich" (who are just really hard working people), and scadalize the sucessful. If everyone paid for your sucess, then it's easier to take your money and the things you've worked hard for in the end. It's all part of his anti-capitalist rhetoric. I've lived in 2 communist countries, both shortly after the Berlin Wall fell, and I've seen first hand the devistating effects of this kind thinking. Sure everyone in East Germany and Bulgaria were equal -- equally poor, and miserable, driving equally bad cars and eating equally bad food, to the point where no one had the desire to do anything extraordinary because the govt would come and take it away. In the end I just think this kind of statment goes against the American ideal of the Individual.

  2. A wonderful sentiment, Julia, especially your admonition to "try to look for the good in one another." One serious threat we as a nation face, is the tendency to impute ill motives to those we disagree with politically. (The previous commenter provides an example.) How often do we hear that Democrats want to implement "socialism" or Republicans want to protect shadowy corporate overlords? Or that the other party is trying to take away our freedom? At bottom, I think Republicans and Democrats share the same core values - I think you'll find more or less unanimous agreement that everyone should have a fair shake in life, no one should starve to death, everyone should be as free as practical in an ordered society, etc. There's a lot of disagreement about how to achieve our underlying values, but all too often people talk past one another and think they have different value systems entirely!

    And yes, I think if people are to be honest, they'll acknowledge that there's no such thing as the self-made man or woman; we all owe a parent, a teacher, a mentor, and, yes, even government. Any society that is not ruled by marauding motorcycle gangs armed with shotguns has some form of effective government that provides the stability necessary for personal success (well, at least for the non-shotgun-wielding-motorcyclist - they'd obviously be more successful the other way). Government regulations prevent fraudulent practices that could bankrupt your business; government regulation of banks ensures a comparatively stable financial market in which depositors needn't worry they'll lose everything if the bank fails; state and local governments educated the workforce you'll employ to make your company successful; social safety nets prevent levels of income inequality that led to genuine fears of Communist overthrow during the Great Depression; unemployment benefits ensure that the workers are in a position to return to work when jobs are available. I could go on nearly ad infinitum. There's plenty of room to debate how robust that government should be and how local it should be, but there's simply no room to argue that it is unnecessary to personal success.

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  4. I believe inspiration and peace from the Savior and living as the commandments direct is the greatest "help".

    I cannot help thinking about another phrase: It takes a village. Alone that is not a bad phrase, but as "A...mom" says, what is the intent? A village is helpful, but I vote for a family with or without a village. (The family is under a terribly strong threat from many places ... another topic.)

    When I was a kid a teacher warned us against wanting a section of the flag, when the person passing out those "pieces of the whole" was not really wanting to give everyone a small part, but really wanting to destroy the whole... with our help to cut it up... "here use these scissors, each take your part". (Was it a metaphor?)

    When I grew up Baptist I thought I needed someone to give me fish (though I'd prefer beef, since I literally choked on some bones). When I joined another church, I learned I could earn my own money and CHOOSE. I ate a lot of peanut butter, and I left behind the hope that someone would "give" me what I needed. I went to the mentioned school, I worked as a 4 am janitor for a while and I had a full time job while going to school full time. When my dad (a vet) died one summer between terms, I had heard I should be able to get some government college tuition help. I applied. There was a loop hole. I got nothing.

    (I did not learn / maybe still haven't learned that few get something with one asking... I do know, it takes lots of time and paperwork and patience to get something for free most of the time. I had little faith in government, or those administering government funds, to see me as a worthy recipient... still feel that way. I am grateful for a church, though, that will give me what I need when I hint that I have a need...)

    In college, I continued to eat as cheaply as possible and finished the degree. I appreciate all who sacrificed for me to accomplish that. I do agree there are lots of lots of people who helped. (I am amazed at the colonization accomplished by people who sacrificed without thinking government or the church would supply earthly needs and I would like to emulate them.)

    ... I dislike the thought process, the line of thinking, that the President is presenting because it gives a false illusion. I try not to think about what percentage of my pay goes towards all the taxes; I continue to contribute a large additional percentage to charitable contributions with a willing and happy heart and give my time as well.

    But, I believe, we need someone to lead who will help each of us become more independent and institute programs to get the whole economic systems growing and healthy again. I think it takes a paradigm shift.

  5. I am so loving that you posted this on here. You're awesome, and an inspiration!

  6. Thanks for posting the entirety of his comment here. Reading it, I agree with everything you said. I really like what you said about the fish, and agree that sometimes you need to "give a man a fish," especially in preparation to "teach him to fish." If people are scrambling just to make it there's no way they're going to be ready and open to improvement.

    However, when I listened to the clip of Obama actually saying this on the news the other night, though, he sounded really defensive -- maybe almost belligerent. I can see where people who have really tried to work hard were offended by his remarks, just from the tone of voice he was using.

    I don't know; I tend to be quite nonconfrontational (so I am doubly impressed with your well thought-out post!) ... but my nonconfrontationalness kind of makes me want to crawl in a hole until November. Aren't we, as you say, more alike than different? Look at the fights on my Facebook feed and you might think otherwise. :-(

    Anyway, I liked this post -- it was well-written and had lots of good thoughts -- so keep 'em coming. And the recipes, too (yum!)

  7. I like your thoughts Julia, I agree....I'm not an extremely political person but I think that way too many people let the "party" they belong to do the thinking for them. There is good & bad on both sides of party lines and unfortunately if you are a politician and you happen to agree with your opposing side on certain issues you can't say so or you will be committing political suicide ...that's why I'm not a huge fan of politicians because it's rare to find someone who is truly honest but at the same time our system makes it that way...It's just frustrating because I know a lot of people have great ideas to improve our system but I can't see it getting much improvement until Men/Women are willing to put aside their personal agendas and pride and start working together and dare I say " Stand for Truth and Righteousness" :)