By Ruth Gadebusch
As I approach my ninth decade, I am increasingly concerned as to why we are having such difficulty fitting the puzzle pieces of life into the big picture. At a time when we have more ability to communicate with our fellow/sister inhabitants of this world and even to travel to their homelands, we seem to have less of an inclination to share the planet’s resources and little appreciation that those in faraway places have the same needs. the same fears and the same hopes that we do. Not just in faraway places but our next-door neighbors. What has happened to us?
This nation, founded with such great hope, has long been the beacon, the model, for peoples any place else on the planet. Yet, we are the most divided we have ever been, even differently than that notorious time of the civil war. We have more wealth—be it food, housing, medical, entertainment or any other need or desire—than most of the rest of the world combined.
Still, we are not a happy nation. That embarrassment of wealth is not distributed according to any fairness, and certainly not in proportion to effort. When did we go so off track?
Arguably, our most vaunted value has been the peaceful transfer of power that we came perilously near to losing in the last election. Nor should we blame it on one man with no personal restraints whatsoever, no commitment to the law, no concern for anyone else. He could not do it alone. Nor is it difficult to see how he was able to exploit the fear of those inexperienced folk at the bottom of the heap in our supposed classless society.
No human wants to be the last person. None wants to see others ahead. The worse inclinations seem to develop when people think that gains made by someone else are made at their expense. It doesn’t seem to occur to such that they need not keep another down in order to be successful his/herself.
Ironically, for a nation of immigrants, we seem to have developed a great fear of the success of anyone looking differently, having a different religion or cultural practice, or even having a more remunerative job.
Yes, our history created conditions ripe for exploitation and one man took advantage of the opportunity, but in my mind, even more to blame are those who should have known better but joined him instead of reining him in. Our forefathers—no foremothers were allowed in their honorable company!—designed a three-part government for its protective elements in balancing power, particularly in preventing a dictatorship.
In recent years, it has too often been used as power to prevent the other side from exercising its responsibility. Example: the blocking of the Presidential appointment of judges, particularly of a Supreme Court nominee as too late in the Presidential term while accepting one of their own party in a much more limited time. In these situations, inconsistency is not a virtue.
Our outdated Electoral College system allowed for questioning without evidence even when every other legal possibility had been struck down by numerous courts. Thus, we arrived on Jan. 6, when we were attacked by the enemy inside. One man was able to use his talent and position to incite a mob attack more like those that we belittle as “banana republics” than anything we thought could happen in our nation under our constitution.
The most frightening aftermath is the refusal of those senators of this man’s party to hold him legally responsible. What more evidence do they need? Don’t they understand the meaning of insurrection or incitement? Don’t the Republicans think they can get elected legitimately? Don’t they understand the responsibility with which they are charged?
It is no excuse to note that the man got so many votes that he can’t be ignored. It was not the majority. It was not even close. There is no need to rehash the gory details here. The facts are all documented, and our constitution was upheld.
Now comes the real challenge. At the helm, we have the kind of man we have always said we wanted. We even have a woman vice president, a long-elusive goal for some of us. We have a bare majority of the President’s party in Congress giving us opportunity.
It will in no way be easy, but somehow we must find a way not of agreeing but respecting. Neither party is always right or always wrong. Respect and compromise have a role. It is still valid to treat others as we would like to be treated.
We have many puzzle pieces to put together, but we can do it—making a beautiful picture, again a nation to be emulated.
Ruth Gadebusch is a former naval officer, Fresno Unified School District trustee and member of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. She is an emeritus member of the Center for Civic Education and retains an active interest in various other educational and community endeavors.