The Future Is About Dignity and Cooperation

This is all going to end up being about dignity.

Our world is about to change markedly, and the question now becomes, “Will the changes take place in civility or chaos?”

Lawmakers are discovering that there is not a limitless supply of money available for them to spend on our behalf, and there will soon be less. Now we must decide, by some means or another, how we will handle this situation.

As federal lawmakers moved to cut back on “unnecessary” programs to diminish the deficit, they discovered that every program had its supporters and its ‘raison d’être’ or the reasons for its existence. There’s just not that much “low hanging fruit” to lob off. While I feel the military budget could be scaled ‘way back, others seem to think we can cut social programs and somehow not experience any difficulties, except for the poor, disabled and elderly, of course.

Something has to give.

When the Democrats were in control, they seemed to place their faith in a fantasy future of rising GNPs and increasing prosperity for all. They were totally unwilling to even politely ask that the wealthiest group of Americans and American corporations contribute a bit more of what they have in plenty – mainly cash. Nor were they willing to attack the sacred cows of government such as military spending, foreign aid for dictators, ludicrous pork barrel projects, or swollen government bureaucracy. They were too timid to risk their positions to support climate change legislation, or cure our addiction to oil by assessing a hefty tax that would bring down usage and create funds for public transportation initiatives. They could not find it in themselves to lift our country back to the moral high ground by repealing the Patriot Act and closing Guantanamo.

When the Republicans gained control, they acted with harsh impunity (or what they would call courage and conviction), immediately pushing ahead with their agenda and slashing programs they deemed unjustified or immoral, such birth control education. Initiatives to ban gay marriage popped up everywhere. They, too, had no intention of asking the wealthy to pony up for more money. Rather, as Gov. Walker has done, Republican lawmakers have used balancing the budget as an excuse to defang political opponents, pit taxpayers against each other in an increasingly ugly fight, and fulfill their promises to giant corporations and wealthy CEOs.

The only positive thing that will come of this that I can see is that it will contribute to downsizing our economy, a necessary step in bringing us nearer sustainable living. Democrats couldn’t accomplish this, largely because they were too worried about hurting people, including themselves and their careers, but also the poor and otherwise needy. Oh, and they are also beholden to giant corporations and their CEOs, many of whom contribute almost evenly to both parties to be sure all their bases are covered.

Republicans are bringing us down with breathtaking speed. Civility has gone out the window; rational discussion and careful consideration is to be avoided at all costs (don’t give anyone time to oppose these “emergency measures.”) None of the players are left with any dignity whatsoever, and that is a shame.

It is also totally counterproductive. Studies of group social behavior show that cooperation is based on trust. And cooperation is what we absolutely must have to weather the coming storm of economic contraction, population relocation due to weather-related disasters, and increasing competition for scarce jobs and resources. In other words, we’ll have to learn to share.

Building trust demands that we treat each other with dignity. In soccer, it’s called sportsmanship. In church, it’s called compassionate Christianity. At work it’s called fair treatment. At my house, it’s called absolutely necessary for survival.

We can’t carry on acting as though we can win every battle, coming out the other side, having stepped over the inert bodies of the defeated, sated with victory and carrying our booty. A day of reckoning will arrive when we must face those we’ve robbed and mistreated, and we might just find ourselves reaching out our hand, not to strike them or steal from them, but in supplication, asking for their help.

We’ll be a much better position if we’ve been conducting ourselves with dignity and treating each other the same way.


  • Candace Bettendorf says:

    Thank you, Katie. You are exactly right. No matter what ‘side’ we defend, we are all Americans, and all part of the great American family. We will all, surely, find that programs we like are going to be reduced or eliminated. I heard one man say to a legislator: “I know things have to be cut, but please don’t cut the forestry program” The legislator replied that everyone had the same thing to say–cuts have to be made, but don’t cut my favorites.

    For too long, this country has been operating on a ‘more is better’ theory. Now, when households must cut expenses, we find that we can live without a lot of things we previously thought of as necessities.

    The one thing we cannot live without is kindness and caring. No matter how much we disagree with a law, a theory, or a person–it costs nothing to be kind. Agree to disagree, and move forward where we CAN and DO agree.

  • Mike Knox says:

    I agree whole-heartedly. Most of us just want to be heard and to know that our voice matters. Sometimes we forget that those around us have the same need and that they may have differing points of view. When we forget these things, we sometimes say things that we should not. Regardless of how we justify our actions, bad behavior is bad bad behavior.
    I hope that this current issue will motivate us to participate more consistently in government. Perhaps regular discussion with our neighbors will help practice our manners and keep us current on facts.

  • I think your right on target with you perception on the current state of affairs, however I think there is a bigger agenda at work, pitting one side against the other (Republicans vs. Democrats) in a deliberate manner in order to attain some rather sinister goals at the expense of the American people.

    Its kind of like pro wrestling, you have good guys and bad guys, and depending on how many tickets they want to sell determines who is going to win on a given night. In the end, the fans are $20 poorer, while the wrestlers (good and bad)- along with the promoter, are laughing all the way to the bank.

    • Katie Chaffee says:

      I agree with you about someone pitting one side against the other and their sinister goals. the question now is, “Are we going to fall for it and go on fueling the division with hateful rhetoric and name calling, or are we going to unite and take action for our long-term survival?”