By Ruth Gadebusch
As a long-time advocate for civic education I deplore what these days seems to be disintegrating into government by demonstration. At the same time, I appreciate that all too often it requires such to get people excited enough to use the tool provided for us in the vote. Unfortunately, it seems to take the old squeaky wheel to bring injustice to the forefront. Certainly the demonstrations do that and I can understand that were I in the circumstances of many of the demonstrators that I too would feel there was no other avenue. The sad part is that even the demonstrations with the best of intentions often bring out those with less than honorable motives such as the massacre in Dallas. There is no reason whatsoever to justify the massacre of cops, or for that matter, anyone.
There is also the matter that the vote does not bring instant gratification. It is long time and many feel they have already waited too long for justice. Granted, the demonstrations do not bring instant gratification either, except perhaps to reduce frustration in that one is at least making a effort for change. Obviously, the dominant society needs to – must – find solutions for the immediate followed by long term justice. Even a bit of appreciation of the long standing indignities heaped on so many would be a start.
I can identify with those who might say thank goodness I am one of the lucky ones but I have not one iota of patience with those so quick to disparage anyone with lesser living conditions as though it were pure choice. It should not need to be said that not all who are wealthy worked for that wealth. Likewise, not all poor are lazy. A lot of luck, be it inheritance or just being at the right place at the right time, is involved. While such understanding does not change matters greatly most of us do respond to empathy. Certainly empathy is required to help better conditions for the less fortunate. Most of all we should always be conscious of how our birth into conditions beyond our control – think skin color, physical limitations, socio- economic conditions etc.- are the controlling factors.
It pains me to see an election period that should be an avenue to ponder just where this nation needs to go has become the avenue for bringing out the worst in our society. Neither of the major political parties is pure but one does seem to have become expert at playing to the lowest common denominator. Instead of looking at the good of the nation of diverse people it is a power play of pitting one group against another. To be sure a sad state of affairs. So long as that attitude persists we will leave no other avenue for the dissatisfied than street demonstrations. We can only hope those demonstrators will follow up their action by thoughtful voting. Then they will have made a difference.
As for the rest of us we too are responsible. We must speak out to ensure justice. Yes, I respect law-enforcement. I understand the constant pressure that they live under. Still it is apparent that they all too often have become too quick on the trigger. It should hardly surprise us that officers are nervous especially when confronted with questionable situations. It is the responsibility of the society to wipe out the conditions that create the fear in these situations.
There is such a thing as prevention that always has been and always will be more effective than remediation. Without question certain guns and ammunition do not need to be so readily available to the mentally ill, those of established criminal proclivity, drug addicted, etc. We can and must do more to help the poverty stricken acquire fairer living conditions, medical care and amenities that the general society takes for granted. Most assuredly we can provide a more evenly administered legal system. After all these are all things that we have always claimed that citizens of this nation enjoy. No, I am not being a Pollyanna. These are basic rights. And no, it is not a failure of education. The public schools cannot compensate for the failure of the above noted. More on that another time.
If ever there was a time for ordinary citizens of good will to become active in the political process this is it. The future of the nation is at stake. One vote does make a difference. Together with thoughtful voting the many chart our future. It is not “Making this country great again.” It is a great nation, but at this moment in time we have become better at talk than reality. It doesn’t have to be that way. That religion that so many profess directs us to care for our neighbor as ourselves. It is as simple as that!
Ruth Gadebusch is a veteran and a community activist, a former member of the Fresno Unified Board of Education, the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education.