Reclaiming our voices of reason amid all the craziness

October 2, 2023 5:50 am

(Photo by Logfin Media/iStock Images)

In this political season, where it seems that anything is up for interpretation and speculation — truths, codes of ethics, rules of law — where do we turn for a sense of direction or best decision-making?

The craziness occurring in our nation’s capital, or our state legislatures, is not all there is.

What craziness, you might ask?

How about postponing military promotions because of an abortion policy.

Or maybe the perennial last-minute impasse about passing a spending bill versus allowing the government to shut down, causing unnecessary anxiety for millions of workers and their families.

This latest tug is just one of many in recent history.

Congress may not be sick and tired of arriving at the same senseless place session after session, but we should be.

Perennial issues in your state? Pick one.

Are you befuddled by the failure to adequately fund public education and pay teachers a well-deserved salary even when there are budget surpluses?

What about the lack of caring about foster care, delivery of meals and other needed programs and services for children who couldn’t survive without them? Foster care services remain underfunded, and thousands of children are losing their Medicaid services.

But aside from the perennial and cyclical issues that occur in our legislative halls, there are other behaviors that we should find just as alarming. Many of our national and local values and traditions are being blatantly ignored, deliberately undermined, verbally disemboweled and brazenly broken.

We do not have to go very far or look very long to see examples of this destructive discourse and behavior in nearly every area of the public square.

Pick either party, or any branch of government, to find laws being broken and codes of ethics being ignored by those who are supposed to be leaders and role models.

Where do we find the voices of reason to change the trajectory of undermining our democracy and the essence of America that we seem to be on?

In ourselves. It is up to us.

We have become accustomed to thinking there is little we can do, become discouraged, and too often become resigned to doing the minimum or nothing at all.

While the aberrant speech and behavior of some leaders seem to dominate the airways, we must remember that they are in the minority. They may represent a sizable minority, but they are still just that: a minority.

So why should we allow them to consume our thoughts or cause us to resort to a defeatist mindset or behavior?

Even amid divisions, let us shift our focus more on who we are, what we believe, and the values we share. Many of the things we do to reevaluate and recharge on a personal level are also applicable as we seek to be more effective on a public level.

Sometimes the needed motivation can begin by recalling the wise words of some of the greats whom we have encountered in our personal lives or through the annals of history.

There is an often-misquoted phrase attributed to Edmund Burke, the eighteenth-century Irish statesman: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

However, I think what he actually said is more meaningful and applicable for us today: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

As disgusting or as bad as the political landscape and some of the political leaders seem today, we as a nation have endured and overcome worse.

As in centuries and generations past, how it all turns out in the coming months and years will be left up to us — the majority of Americans who still believe in the good that is America, and are determined to preserve and continue to work to make it better.

This is a time for deeper reflections and new conversations.

We are in a different time, with different challenges that could result in different outcomes — outcomes that could change many of the things we take for granted.

Do you ever think that the celebrations, traditions and holidays we hold dear could be at risk?

Do you think our American way of life will always be there?

We just commemorated the lives we lost as a result of the once unimaginable terrorist attacks that occurred on our own soil on Sept. 11, 2001. The attacks destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, damaged the Pentagon, and compelled brave and committed Americans to pay the ultimate price when they took a plane down in the fields of Shanksville, PA to keep it from crashing into the U.S. Capitol.

Lest we forget. Few things are sacrosanct.

Few societies survive indefinitely when the majority of its citizens remain silent.

Changing the conversation, exercising our individual and collective power, and aligning our voices of reasons and actions with others of like-minded beliefs and values will be what will rule our near-term and long-term future.

These options are there for our claiming and reclaiming.

Will we?

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.