Ruth Gadebush

Can We Recover?

Can we recover from the discord, the suspicion, the anger, the fear and such now suffocating our society? We must! But how? How can we restore the meaning of democracy?

It’s pandemic. It’s a complete disregard for others. It’s an eschewing of science. The word compromise isn’t even in the language. It is “my way or the highway.” It is an insurrection. It is pure and simple perpetuating a lie for which there is absolutely no evidence of fraud in an election. It is a disregard of history. In short, we are a divided nation in a way that I have never known in my nine decades.

Oh yes, I have seen bitterly divided political issues. I have lived in a world wrought with war. I have seen poverty in this nation and, worse yet, in other parts of the world.

I am in regular contact with a group in which members feel compelled to brag about their upbringing as more difficult than yours—who walked the most miles to school in bitter ice and snow—and now feel entitled, forgetting that there actually are those living the difficult life now. Even nearby visible to us in their tents and cardboard, and not just because they are lazy, not as smart as us or uncaring.

I could go on and on, but the above brings sorrow enough. With the few years left for me, I am not likely to suffer too much physically with some incurable disease but those who follow us, my family and yours, are not likely to fare so well in the broader sense. Most reading this column have, despite the above travesties, prospered more than suffering.

We have recovered from a worldwide depression although some of that economic recovery was the spoils of manufacturing weapons of war. Some was the ability to prevent and cure suffering from life-threatening diseases. Some of our good fortunes are the result of government largess such as the GI Bill for education and the purchase of houses. This latter has allowed us to profit by growth in value, the same value that now makes it difficult for the current generation to become homeowners.

This, the wealthiest nation on the planet, arguably has the greatest gap between the top and the bottom. Is that really what was expected when our forefathers, after defeating the world’s then strongest military, struggled to develop the world’s greatest government offering opportunity to all?

This nation, long denigrating the so-called banana republics and surviving a civil war ourselves, came so near going over the precipice just one year ago. Is it irony or just what allowed abuse of that document so carefully created to come so near to being our downfall?

Of course, you know that I refer to the Electoral College, seemingly a brilliant compromise at the time but now so obviously unnecessary for these different times. Now that we have had several presidents elected with less than the popular vote, what does it take for us to fix just that one thing?

Most of us were taught that the Electoral College was to keep the cities from overwhelming the needs of the less populated areas. In fact, it was to satisfy that section where a different race of a near majority was not counted as full citizens. Now it largely benefits a scarcely populated state giving each individual voter far more power than one in a heavily populated state such as ours. More on that another time.

Alas, there is a major political party that appears to have embarked on denying the vote to groups unlikely to support the party rather than encouraging the best instrument we have for protecting the rights for all: The Vote. This comes when there was hope that the nation was moving in the right direction in protecting all. Just as many impediments to voting were being removed there is this serious move to deny that vote, the instrument on which all freedom rests.

President Biden on the anniversary of that insurrection has reminded us that democracy does not mean always winning. It must be constant and ongoing with consideration for all.

Even the President’s own party needs to be reminded of that reality. There is a large group within the party demanding their way—criticizing him that one year after his inauguration they have not achieved all their dreams. This without regard to the thin—very, very thin—party control in the Congress due to simple numbers and outdated rules.

If his own party cannot use a bit of reasoning and restraint, what hope is there with a party in which almost no official is willing to admit to the grossest offenses against the law of the land. I pause here to salute Rep. Liz Cheney (R–Wyo.) for speaking against all odds.

The nation has faced dire times before, but this appears to be about as far as we can go and still protect our democracy. Yes, modern communication allows information both good and bad to be fully disseminated but it is up to us to discern what is true and useful. It is up to us to preserve what we have benefitted from all these years.

Not one of us can afford to sit back saying I am only one. Each and every one of us has a responsibility. Corny as it might sound, we are in this together. Isn’t it time we learned that one cannot benefit at the expense of another? Something as simple as wearing a mask to protect others in a pandemic, conserving water during a drought or following laws meant to benefit all of us.

Despite the bleak outlook, we must not let despair prevail. Fortunately, there is goodwill still among us: helping repair storm damage, donating food for the needy, offering transportation, volunteering to fill a multitude of needs or just offering a warm greeting when it is most needed.

Let us stop and think just what is my responsibility. Let us actually be the good citizens that we consider ourselves to be. Let us consider how we will be missed when we are gone. Will my time on this planet have made a difference?

  • Ruth Gadebusch

    Ruth Gadebusch, a former naval officer, was recently recognized by the League of Women Voters with its Lipton Award for volunteer work in various community endeavors. She was elected four times to the Fresno Unified School District Board, appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and is an emeritus member of the Board of the Center for Civic Education.

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