Time to Foster Change

American Politics and its Effect on Progress

Nepotism and elitism run rampant in American politics. The same individuals are re-elected over and over. In Congress, there have been hundreds of members who have served uninterrupted for 35 years or more with one representative serving 60 years! The state legislatures are no better. There have been thousands who have served continuously for over twenty years.

Do we not have enough stagnation within our government? We already have life appointments on the Supreme Court and within the federal court system. Why must we tolerate more of the same in the legislative branch? I find the longevity of these judges and politicians not only unfair but very troublesome. We creep along when it comes to any forward progress.

The reasoning behind the permanent appointment of federal judges may have been at one time to keep these judges free from external pressures, but I doubt that anyone truly buys into that belief anymore. We are not fools, we are all well aware of how much political party preference is in play when a judge is chosen for an appointment. The same can be said for any legislative representative. 

We take a step forward only to take two steps back whenever there is a shift in party lines. We are caught in a perpetual catch-22. Because of this, it takes decades to catch up with the rest of the world, if we ever do. In addition to this longevity comes a condescending “father knows best” mentality that resonates throughout American politics.

I say this because both Congress and State legislatures are white males predominantly over the age of sixty. The House is 75% male and 76% white. The Senate is 76% male and 89% white. The current Senate is the oldest in American history. The state legislatures mirror this same scenario with 71% male, 81% white, and a majority of members over the age of fifty. And also not surprisingly, federal judges are nearly all white males.

I’m stating these figures not because I have an issue with the age, gender, or color of our lawmakers and interpreters, I mention these stats because I have an issue with diversification. How can a quarter of a billion people who reside in this country all living their own unique experiences be represented fairly if the majority of the individuals elected or appointed cannot relate due to their own limited scope of perception?

We have so many members that have benefited from much of the same opportunities and privileges, thus experiencing much of life through similar lenses. That entitled reality can and does differ greatly from the masses of people they supposedly represent. This is not just representation. We need leaders who can relate to our humanness and all the differences that make us uncommon. Some might argue that the people choose to re-elect these figures year after year. 

In a true democracy, the people elect their leaders. In this country, money determines the candidates we ultimately get to choose from. Therefore, I would argue it’s not the people, it’s the financial backing and political pull of their party and special interest groups that get them on the ballot, not the will or wish of the general public. We are just left with the residue of all that manipulation.

Our Constitution has been contaminated by big-money political action committees, unchecked campaign finance, polarized political parties and views, and legislative officials more concerned with re-election and job security. The wealthy, corporations, trade associations, labor unions, and/or special interests will always have the advantage in endorsing ideas and agendas that do not always resonate with the average citizen. Money talks, therefore super lobby groups are far more likely to capture the attention of federal and state lawmakers than you. 

The fact of the matter is we have 535 members of Congress with a whole hell of a lot of power. The same analogy applies to our respective states. The average number of lawmakers in more than half of our states is less than 150 members. Only four states have more than 200 members. We have a combined total of 7,925 federal and state lawmakers that have been given the power to decide what is best for the 332,500,000 individuals who reside in this country. Which in eye-popping and other words means less than 1/1000th of 1% of our population is deciding for the rest of us what shall be deemed significant enough to warrant legislation.

Just think, this relatively small number of individuals, soaked through with political party affluence, have been entrusted to enact laws meant to safeguard the rights and privileges of over a quarter billion people. They ultimately have the final say on whether an injustice that continues to trouble a great many of us will be put forth or ignored.

Adding to the weight of all this power is the fact that this same small number of politicians are also in control of this country’s purse strings. I get that this power was granted to Congress by the Constitution, but the constitution was ratified when the population was a pittance of what it is today and the budget was a tiny fraction of where it stands now.

It doesn’t seem appropriate or fair that such a ripple affecting power can be in the hands of so few when our country is so vastly different from the time such power was first established. How can we continue to say this country is a democracy when such unbridled power is given to one branch of government? Our Constitution created a three-branch system purposely. This country may have been founded as a three-branch government, but there is no doubt where the power lies.

Each branch was given limited powers to check and balance each other, yet it feels to me the generous grants of power given to our legislative branch affect individual citizens on a much more intrusive level. The legislative branch enacts our laws and controls the purse. The executive branch does have the power to veto and submit a proposed budget, however, that veto and proposal can be and on most occasions overridden by Congress. The executive branch can issue executive orders, however, those orders only remain in effect as long as the president holds office.

Our Court system is set up to interpret laws, not make them. They can only control so much when inclined to do so. Therefore, we really have to rely on our legislators to be sensible, fair, and just.

You wouldn’t think these characteristics would be a stretch for one elected to such a respected position. But, reality shows that possessing such attributes must be more difficult than we all realize or we as a collective just have a really bad judgment (even though we all know the election process is controlled by money and the candidates chosen are the by-product of a manipulated system that has nothing to do with public choice).

It was the intent of our original framers that the government’s power was to be derived from its people, not the other way around. That society, not politicians, would determine the course of this country’s direction. So, what happened? Observing our country in its present-day form, many would conclude we are indeed a country very much controlled by its government.

In a true democracy would its citizens be perpetually forced to face down the biased views, opinions, and perspectives of a small number of politicians whose unbridled power ultimately yields statutes seep through with religious undertones, moral self-righteousness, and downright discrimination? We have become victims who watch in dismay the enactment of laws that only permit marriage between a man and a woman, deny rights to an individual based upon an identified gender or non-gender, destroy voting rights and privileges, and deny a woman a right to her own body, and of course, the two most recent appalling proposals out of Florida.

First up, we have the “non-racist” (wink wink) proposal that will protect white feelings from the discussion of racism (and we wonder why the human race will never evolve), and then because that proposal wasn’t quite offensive enough, the Florida legislature passes the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. How can anyone read these laws and not see the religious overtones that are seeped within them? Many of our modern-day statutes even though the first amendment expressly defines the separation between church and state are chock-full of religious connotations.

The first amendment declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Yet contrary to that statement, the most famous written words in American history are “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Who is our creator if not God? God was also mentioned four times in the Declaration of Independence.

I can’t help but notice the contradiction between the Declaration and the framers’ intention to take a neutral position toward religion. Because of this inconsistency of intention, I believe it’s made things easier for faith-based politicians to manipulate the law to mirror their religious beliefs.

I’ve got nothing against God or religion. I get that this world and one’s life can be hard to manage at times and belief in a higher power and a community to worship can be a great comfort for many. But, we need to take the focus off God and religion, because like it or not, the Bible much like The Constitution, has been picked apart, used and abused, twisted, turned, and manipulated into whatever perceived reality that is most beneficial to a particular group or person.

If we take the focus off an actual being and incorporate such things as understanding, sensitivity, compassion, and empathy in the enactment of our laws, maybe we would end up with more equality and inclusiveness within our statutes instead of fear-based legislation awash with outdated perspectives, religious association, and/or downright discrimination.

Let’s be real, the people of this country have absolutely no control over what laws are enacted, remain, or are removed. The party affiliation of our “elected” leaders (along with all the beliefs, judgments, and resolutions associated with that alliance) does that for us.

In a true democracy, would its citizens be obliged to blindly accept the opinion of a select few when it comes to spending trillions of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars? Would those same citizens have to watch on a yearly basis the jeopardization of federal and state budgets due to partisan priorities that each political party is clamoring to include in budgetary bills (knowing full well that such action will cause a government shutdown that will negatively affect the economy, workforce, essential services, as well as, costing the American taxpayers billions of dollars)? Of course not. So, how and when did Congress and the rest of our state legislatures literally become this country’s gatekeepers?

Any American who ever attended grade school understands that the legislative branch and its accompanying power stem from an election process that was established over two centuries ago.

The Constitution and Bill of Rights were written when the population of America was only 2.5 million. It now stands at 333 million (that is a 135fold increase). It was also written during a time when the race, color, and sex of an individual were completely disregarded and ignored unless that somebody was a white male.

It is now 2022. Isn’t it time to possibly make some adjustments that would allow a much more encompassing representation of the American people? Is it really fair for hundreds of millions of people (who are not white males) to be held captive by the good intentions of men whose vision of this country was seen through the lens of an eighteenth-century perspective? The contents of these revered texts were meant to provide a government for the people based upon the will of the people.

If that objective is truly the case, shouldn’t the “will of the people” be expanded to include every human being within its borders (the majority of whom are not white males)? Each and every one of us carries within us varying perspectives, ideologies, opinions, judgments, convictions, and insights. Because of these differences, American society has been given the opportunity to expand its awareness by understanding and accepting concepts and ideals that may contrast greatly with previously held philosophies.

However, there has been this long-standing traditional response that treats these founding documents so delicately that each and every word included has become the end all and be all. Of course, these documents should be shown deference, but it is my honest belief that the Constitution and Bill of Rights were not meant to be stagnant. They were created to be living, breathing documents meant to change with the times along with the rest of us.

One of our greatest gifts as human beings is our ability to change. To be human is to evolve. The signers knew when these documents were written that the future would demand transformation, modification, and correction. Hence, the inclusion of Article V.

Our forefathers wanted this country to be able to rectify, alter and amend the Constitution. So why is it so damn difficult to do so? Since our Constitution’s conception there have been countless movements, protests, and demonstrations in addition to a civil war that have been utilized to advance and protect vital social issues that were omitted from the original constitutional protections.

It is so frustrating to look back at the times in our history when numerous laws and social norms should have been turned on their heads just based on common sense and decency. The countless times so many have suffered from the inequality and biased ignorance that has plagued our law books over the centuries.

Why must we wait around idly for war, civil movement, or social uprising to happen before any substantial change is ever addressed? Why does the will of the people have to wait decades and sometimes centuries for the government to get on the same page? Precious time wasted with so many lives adversely affected because our politicians and legislatures have to agree that these changes are finally necessary. This was not the intention of our forefathers and shouldn’t be tolerated by the rest of us.

There are certain individuals running this country who grapple for dear life to every word written in the Bill of Rights to the point we hold on to amendments that no longer serve or protect us. Yes, I am referring to the 2nd Amendment. How after everything that has happened in this county can this amendment still stand untouched? Congress felt compelled to pass amendments and additional legislation protecting the rights of individuals based on color, race, ethnicity, and sex because they couldn’t trust human beings to treat each other with respect and dignity.

If we can’t as a country expect certain individuals to act decent and tolerant to one another, how is it that so much trust is placed upon individuals to act responsibly when it comes to firearms? I am so tired of hearing the excuse firearms don’t kill humans, people do. Well, duh! I don’t think there is a real need to point out that tantalizing deduction. I believe most of us are quite aware that guns don’t pull their own triggers.

However, year after year, the American government continually places confidence in the mentality of hundreds of millions of individuals residing in this country. We are forced to live with the hope that each one of these individuals is of sound mind with enough moral alignment not to eliminate another human being’s life. We trust in such nonsense just to keep the second amendment relevant even though it defies common sense.

There are approximately 8,000 children and teens shot each year in this country from domestic violence, school violence, lack of gun safety, gang-related and suicide. As of 2021 there have been over 350 fatal school shootings since Columbine. The most recent occurring in my home state of Michigan. This time along with the teen, the parents will be charged.

Calling attention to another example of individuals who foolishly mishandled their parental privilege. The actions taken by these parents didn’t just destroy their own child, their stupidity was the main reason four other young souls lost their lives. An entire community will now suffer from inconsolable devastation for many years to come due to a mentally disturbed teenager, reckless parents, and our country’s constitutional right to bear arms.

The 2nd amendment was included by the framers because it was obviously a major concern back in the day, but so was the issue of slavery, yet that concern went completely untouched. Did you know the intent behind this amendment was actually referring to arms that would be handled by men who were members of the militia? In fact, if you read the history of this amendment you will find that not much discussion at all was given to this issue.

However, here we are, two and a half centuries later still debating about guns. How many more of our children have to die by gunfire before this country gets its head out of its ass. I honestly thought Sandy Hook would finally force our representatives to act, but unfortunately, an unstable 20-year-old boy who walks into an elementary school to shoot and kill kindergarteners isn’t a disgusting enough massacre to at the very least modify the second amendment.

Each tragedy offers our government the opportunity to act. Yet, nothing has been done to stop this madness. The fear of losing an election appears to be more important than saving lives, many of whom are children. This blatant disregard for innocent life is allowed to endure decade after decade because clearly avoidance is much easier to maintain than growing a backbone.

The second amendment is just one hot topic from so many to choose from. There are countless social issues of inequality, prejudice, and violations of human rights just as worthy as gun control that have been completely ignored and omitted from amendment protection.

Take a look back at the many times in our history when the legislature and courts have been up and down and everywhere in between in regards to heated topics such as guns, abortion, voting, and civil and equal rights. This is because words taken from our constitution, depending on the reader, will be interpreted with a biased slant that harmonizes with the reader’s core beliefs. We can bend, twist and manipulate words in a sentence to mean exactly what we want them to and because of this, injustice and inequalities, whether put there with intention or not, will always be found hiding in our everyday statutes.

How else could it still be possible for the United States, a self-proclaimed world leader, to have no constitutional amendments pertaining to equal rights, children’s rights, or for that matter civil rights? What about so many other pressing issues such as campaign finance, immigration, police reform, health care, voter protection, and LGBTQ civil rights? So many issues worthy of amendment status, not an Act, not a statute, but major legislation that cannot be overturned, interpreted, or misconstrued by the Supreme Court and/or the court system.

Unfortunately, “worthy” isn’t going to cut it, an amendment to the Constitution requires thirty-eight states to agree. Yes, you read that right. Our framers wanted all ratified amendments to benefit from widespread support thus requiring “two-thirds of several states.” This may have made sense a few hundred years ago, but the current status of our political system with party divisions as severe and uncooperative as ever proves this requirement an absurdity. Getting 38 states to come together on a cause within this country’s political atmosphere is an impossible task, but this is where we are, and what has been forced upon us to reckon with.

Even if tens of millions of us agree that a social issue should be addressed and reformed, the likelihood of that cause advancing to an active amendment is pretty grim. It is so unfair because the amendment process was added as a tool to improve and advance the betterment of the country. In the 232 years since the conception of the Constitution, there have been approximately 11,500 proposals to amend it.

From this number, we currently have 25 active amendments that have been ratified by the required number of states. Of those 25, eight involve executive and legislative procedures. We have had amendments passed regarding the abolishment and reinstatement of alcohol, but can’t pass an amendment protecting children’s rights or any other worthy cause such as those mentioned above? Why is it that any change that becomes cemented in permanent language that directly impacts the rights and protections of an American citizen, is so incredibly hard to come by?

This barrier is keeping us from making the necessary changes that actually reflect the tolerance, acceptance and understanding of this country’s true soul, with our own political process as the culprit behind any hesitancy to move forward. Further adding to this imbalance is this farcical rivalry that lingers within our political system. This political divide is crushing the soul of this country. This discord has been a sour note in our history and the predominant reason we can never make a productive step forward.

We, the citizens of this country, have no other option than to choose a side. Republican or Democrat? Right or left? Conservative or Liberal? I don’t want to choose a side. This isn’t an opinion war such as choosing Coke or Pepsi, Ford or Chevy, Beatles or Stones, Ohio State or Notre Dame. The majority of the collective are centralists, party affiliation is irrelevant to us.

We are the ones who cherish our individuality and respect each other’s differences. We remain neutral because we believe in progress. I’m fed up living in a reality that makes it impossible to have another perspective. It’s okay to prefer Dr. Pepper, Jeep Chrysler, and the Moody Blues, and agreeing to root against both Ohio State and Notre Dame (Go Blue!). I think it’s important to note that just because our presence may not be felt in the media doesn’t mean we do not exist.

Storming the Capital is not our idea of patriotism. We are the ones shaking our heads in disbelief. We are the ones so dazed by the surreal reality taking place that it’s hard to recall what year we live in. We are the ones who understand that living in this world requires one to think about others’ well-being, not just our own. We are the ones capable of residing in a live and let live society. We are the ones who recognize that genuineness and respectability are traits that have nothing to do with whether one is Republican or Democrat.

We are the ones who are frustrated, saddened, and angry that it takes millions of us to march in protest before our complacent government takes notice. We are the ones who want campaign finance laws so we can participate in an actual democracy and not this wealth-driven ideology of leadership we have now. We are the ones who share an evolved understanding of forward-thinking concepts, an open acceptance of others different from ourselves, and expanded awareness that this extreme right/left rhetoric is killing any chance of constructive progress.

Party affiliation along with the power and self-importance that accompanies an elected/appointed political position has decimated American politics. I am so weary of the renegade powers that be, whether that power is in the form of the president, senator, congressman, governor, and/or state representative. You know the ones. Those who actively take part in doing all that they can to sow dissension every chance they get.

They do so to prove loyalty to their political party so they can retain their position and receive the financial backing needed to win re-election or take that next step up on the political ladder to a more coveted position. Moral and ethical behavior appears to be mostly absent. It feels at times that greed, ego, and self-perseveration have taken over with hardly an afterthought given to those who may be affected by such indifference.

Year after year, decade after decade, we watch helplessly as a select number of individuals wield more power than sense. Choosing to use their influence to hold back this country from clear-sighted practical progress. How else does a head of state get away with threatening teachers’ salaries and educational funding because that particular individual doesn’t believe a universal pandemic is impacting the world. Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s sheer abuse of power. It’s all very maddening, but sadly enough, all too familiar.

We are continually forced to witness such absurdity on a regular basis. The frustrating part is that actions such as these are taken for purely selfish reasons. Whether it is to appease a political party, protect job security, or align oneself toward a loftier political position. Whatever the motivation, you can bet that it was for a purpose other than the betterment of the collective.

Any individual, group, or corporation who chooses to take a stand on a particular social injustice now has to fear retaliation from those wielding political power. This is the United States, not Russia. This country was founded with the intention of democracy, equality, neutrality, fairness, acceptance, and compromise. So, why are we tolerating political tyrants who threaten consequences for those of us who choose to be consciously aware of racial or social discrimination?

We deserve representatives who will re-connect with the will of the people and not the interest of a particular party, religious affiliation, or moral self-righteousness. This disconnect is demoralizing and literally has this country at a standstill. In recent decades the aftermath of Congressional (both federal and state) actions and non-actions have done nothing but negatively impact the collective as a whole with all this unnecessary politically motivated rhetoric from special interest groups, judges, politicians and/or government parties. The political bitterness that permeates the air we breathe stinks.

This in-fighting sustained by bullying tactics and the incessant need to be right has held Americans hostage to necessary reform. It is slowly destroying our democracy and the faith we place within individuals who enact, interpret, protect and guide this country. Without nonpartisanship, we might as well refer to America as a totalitarian government because quite frankly that’s what it feels like. Whichever political party holds sway, that is where the true power lies.

I for one am tired of feeling like a child caught in the middle of a contentious divorce. Each parent vies for control and uses the child as a pawn to get what they want. Each party is overcome with a false sense of superiority and the inability to concede. Neither care that the anger and bitterness they exude are only harming the innocents they were entrusted to care for.

It’s the innocent ones who have to stand by and watch as their significance takes a back burner. And in the end, nobody wins, but it’s always the kid that ends up in lifelong therapy. This foolishness needs to stop.

We deserve politicians who behave like leaders, not bickering exes. I think many of us have become disgusted with having to live in the aftermath of this mess while real social ills continue to be buried and thus neglected due to this extremism. Congress and all lawmakers need to stop fixating on what no longer serves us and focus their attention on issues that actually matter to the majority of us that call this country home.

I don’t think any intellectual mind would argue that at this current moment in time that the United States is a divided country. Some will say it’s political, some will insist it’s racism, and some others will say it’s sexism, but I believe the cause is as old as life itself.

I believe the separation at the heart of this country is actually a general sense of importance some people assume they are entitled to possess. In other words, discrimination. According to Webster’s dictionary, the definition of discrimination is the treatment of a person or a particular group of people differently, in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated. All types of discrimination occur repeatedly on a daily basis.

The sad truth is, that people are mistreated based on race, color, sex, age, religion, ethnicity, nationality, social and economic class, educational status, physical appearance, and the list goes on. Discrimination has been around since the time the human brain understood the concept of superiority. That sense of self-importance created an intolerance of those who are different. But, the real problem lies within the fact we refuse to recognize or admit to ourselves that it is our own fear and insecurity that lurks behind the animosity we carry for one another.

Insecure individuals can be fierce in protecting their false sense of self. Which I actually find quite ironic because that false sense of superiority, power, wealth, notoriety, fame, or whatever other misguided belief drives an individual or group to conclude they are special… stems from nothing more than an underlying fear that they are not as extraordinary as they believe.

Perusing through history one can see that humankind has been acting like contemptible fools from the get-go. Somewhere down the line of humanity, it was decided that a tiered level of distinction was needed. Ever since society has been fixated on an “us versus them” mentality. Giving significance to an individual, group, class, nationality, etc., generates a mindset that it’s perfectly acceptable to undervalue the worth of others thereby creating this hierarchy of importance. This has been going on so long that it’s become second nature.

I’m actually starting to believe that it has become an essential human need to remain relevant. Unfortunately, maintaining this relevance comes at the expense of treating others irrelevant, creating a toxic cycle of “ my life has value, yours doesn’t.” Thereby creating a world ripe for inequality. This world was not created for the sole purpose of a few. My favorite poem, The Desiderata, says it beautifully. “We are all children of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; we all have a right to be here”. We all matter, that is why we can no longer stand by in quiet observation of the routine mistreatment of our fellow human beings.

To remain aloof because it may feel like a difficult hill to climb would allow yet another injustice to intensify. The perception that currently looms is that the folks who stormed the Capital and others with similar mindsets are of the majority. I believe that to be total nonsense. The true patriots of this country just need to allow themselves to be seen and heard. It’s time to push back.

Our democracy, such as it is, requires like minds, oodles of them, standing together to necessitate any meaningful change. It appears to be the only way to get the government’s attention.

I know that what I have written gives the impression I am not pleased to be an American citizen. In actuality, it’s quite the contrary. I am so grateful to have the liberties I do. I am fortunate to have been afforded an opportunity to obtain an education. The ability to go after my dreams. The freedom to speak my truth. The privilege to advocate for change and not be silenced or imprisoned. I believe we can be thankful and galvanizing at the same time. There is always room for improvement.

To remain stagnant as a person, country or society is to be anchored down by outworn beliefs, systems, principles, and ethics. Our entire existence as human beings revolves around our ability to change, grow, and evolve. Otherwise, what is the point? We have many systems in this country (justice, child welfare, health care, public safety, etc.) that are in need of necessary change. The imbalance within these systems are drastically unfair. To ignore, pretend, and deny that this imbalance does not exist is to dehumanize those of us on the receiving end of this reality.

I believe many of us would take more of a stand if we knew it would do any good. Unfortunately, as many of us are all too aware, it can be an intimidating and fruitless attempt to take on any office, department, or agency of the government. Average citizens, begging for change, are unable to speak their truth because one person alone can’t penetrate a towering wall of supremacy.

It’s an exhaustive undertaking that requires repeated efforts just to get a response of any kind. If you’re lucky you may receive a template letter stating “We’ll look into it.” After that, it’s nothing but crickets, dead silence. You know why that is? Because avoidance is easy to do when one person stands alone.

I can’t take on all of them, but I can start with one. I have seen how the child welfare system operates. I have experienced it up close and personal. The imbalance and unfairness felt when immersed within this design of so-called justice have motivated me to move forward in an attempt to enlighten the masses. I may get nowhere, but I’m going to try. I know this is a controversial topic.

To be honest, I didn’t want to get political, my intention was to keep the focus on the kids, but it’s hard not to discuss political issues when I’m advocating for reform of a government-run agency. I know many people out there will not like, believe, or agree with what I’m saying. I get that. We have all experienced life differently and have formed our own epistemic conceptions.

My aim is to evoke an alternate thought process on how we regard the rights of vulnerable children. If you should feel the same, I implore you to begin sharing your knowledge, experience, and insight on this topic or any other social inequality that matters to you.

So, what is it that you are passionate about? What makes you shake your head in disbelief? What makes your stomach churn? What brings a tear to your eye? What is it that moves your soul? And then, make a move.

Write that blog, start that Facebook group, tweet that statement, post that TikTok video, and/or protest that conviction. Do anything you can think of to peacefully make a difference…just please don’t sit back and casually accept the many injustices that continue to engulf this incredible country with all of its amazing people.