I’m beginning to wonder if it’s time to rewrite the national anthem. Not the whole song, just the lyrics… and only a small part. Really, just one word.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking the anthem or the sentiment of the verses. It’s just that one word. We don’t seem to be living up to that word.
Now don’t get excited. There are many, many Americans for whom that word is appropriate. Some, like retired U.S. Army Captain Florent Groberg who was recently awarded the Medal of Honor, it’s inadequate. Capt. Groberg was part of an elite security detail in Afghanistan when he confronted a suicide bomber. His efforts to shove the man away from the other soldiers in the patrol saved many lives, though Groberg himself was severely injured.
Groberg’s story is one of true heroism, but it’s not unique. Military personnel, law enforcement, firemen… I’m sure you can think of plenty examples. And let’s not discount everyday heroes… the people who put in a hard day’s work, who wring every last drop of sweat equity out of their paychecks, knowing that they could be downsized or outsourced at any minute.
And we need to recognize the boys and girls who do what’s right even if it means risking acceptance by the popular kids… standing up to bullies and, respectfully, challenging authority when a wrong has been committed.
These and more are… brave.
Unfortunately, the people who speak on our behalf… those that we entrust with the most valuable possession we Americans have, our votes… typically display the least courage. Some would argue that casting a “no” vote here and there or making a chest-thumping speech on C-Span takes an iron will and a steely spine, but I’m not buying it.
Politicians, you want to show me an act of bravery? Then let’s see you support something that is beneficial to everyone, not just your big-money contributors or your political base. Let’s start by agreeing to fix our roads and bridges, and I don’t mean a scheme that shifts funds away from other public services. Roll up your sleeves and come up with a plan that makes our highway system the envy of the world once again. Make it more functional and safer.
And for crying out loud… spend the money to get it done! We Americans kick in a huge chunk of cash every year. The least you could do is spend it on things that we need. Yes, we need a well-funded military, no argument here. But don’t focus too much on dropping bombs halfway across the world while ignoring the infrastructure that’s crumbling here at home.
While you’re at it, take a stand for what’s right… even if it means a handful of extremists will scream at your at your next town hall. Let’s hear you say something positive about independently-owned family farms, public school teachers, or even (gasp!) journalists. Acting like a grown-up might mean you’ll face a primary challenge from the fringe. But if you show up and do your job like we pay you to do, you’ll give us a good reason to vote you back in.
On the subject of showing up for work, let’s see you do something about your schedule. When House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy unveiled the 2016 calendar for Congressional House workdays, there were too many empty spaces that need filling. What were you thinking? Only 110 days in session?!?!? That’s even less than the 133 days on your schedule in 2015. Is it asking too much for us to expect you to put in a string of 40-hour weeks?
Spare me the stories about how you need all those other days to catch up on “district work” when we know you use that time to give stale speeches at fundraisers and play golf with your special-interest lobbyists.
There’s one more thing you can do to show that you’re worthy: be honest in all that you do and say. Telling blatant lies may be a great way to get yourself booked on the most popular talk shows, resulting in more and more campaign contributions, but it just makes us trust you less and less.
We’ve got people running for the most powerful job in government who act like they’re allergic to truth. They tell huge lies and when confronted with the facts, just tell bigger lies. Is that the kind of leadership we deserve? Based on the crowds they draw, I’m beginning to wonder.
Here’s one more way you can show you’re worthy: reject and condemn the candidates whose campaigns are filled with bigotry and unkindness. Do what’s right… even if you face negative feedback… and we’ll be more willing to consider you “brave”,
(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald, December 3, 2015.)