What I Need to Know and Do About Global Climate Change

There's Still Time to Save the Planet.
There’s Still Time to Save the Planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whoa…well, what I need to know about climate change is that the world’s people need to do something about it NOW.   Uh duh.  Scientists, world leaders, activists and others have been trying to get our attention for many years now.  Climate change is now at a crisis point.  But, I’m feeling hopeful because there are things I can do to move national policy forward.

According to an interview in Oprah magazine, former Vice President Al Gore believes that in a crisis, people tend to pull together.  He notes that during super storm Sandy, “We saw New Jersey governor Chris Christie and President Obama put partisanship aside and act in a powerful and unified way.”  I believe that Congress will get the message that teamwork is required for national service.  National debate and discussion will occur on this issue, options will be identified, and public policy will be enacted.

It’s not greed.  Bankers and corporations do what will advance their interests.  They are doing what the economic system is telling them to do.  Pressure from citizens is effective when it goes to the power structure and clearly says that unless the system is changed, we all will be facing a very big problem.

OWN IT     FEEL IT      LIVE IT      LOVE IT

Own It

I’ve come to understand that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion in the discussion about what’s happening with the climate.  But after watching, reading and listening to diverse voices, I own my belief that the global will experience in the coming years major weather impacts due to changes measured in the increasing carbon in the atmosphere.

Feel It

I understand the feelings about this issue:  it feels frightening, confusing, and hopeless.  But with action, I feel that I am working with a team of Americans who understand that it it makes no difference if the climate crisis is manmade or not.  What matters is that humans must prepare for the impacts of increased climate volatility, rising oceans, food production disruptions, etc.  And, if we can do things now that can slow down the climate change, let’s do it now.  To be on a team with esteemed scientists, economists, and world leaders makes me feel joyous, happy, and confident.

Live It

What am I doing?  I’m participating on the Bill Moyer & Company site  at PBS.org following along with the discussion about this issue.

Love It

And…I’m loving it!  When my family and friends ask me, “Whatcha doing?”  I tell them about the books I’m reading, the DVDs and programs I have watched, the petitions I’m supporting and the discussions I’m having with people around the globe who are, like me, passionate about this issue.

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see who is leading the debate and discussion on global climate change.  And…get involved!

the Educating Gossip™

 

CIVICS 1 B – Let’s Go!

CIVICS 1 B – Let’s Go!

In the United States, we have an economic system and a political system.  Most people tend not to distinguish between the two.  But it is very important to do so.  Let’s look a little closer at the political system.

The Foundations of the American Political System

You’re probably learned, or knew at some time or another, what the basic values and principles are that form the foundation for the American political system.  In a democracy, this knowledge and understanding among the citizens is expected to increase with each year of our lives.  With age comes wisdom.

The fundamental expressions for American principles and values are important to understand for many reasons.  Americans are people bound together by the ideals, values, and principles they share rather than by kinship, ethnicity, or religion, which are ties that bind some other nations of the world.

Americas’ ideals, values, and principles have shaped their political instructions and affected their political processes.  The ideals, values, and principals set forth in the nation’s core documents are criteria that Americans use to judge the means and the ends of government, as well as those of the myriad groups and organizations that are part of civil society.  So, understanding of fundamental principles provides the basis for a reasoned commitment to the ideals, values, and principles of American constitutional democracy.

Theses values and principles of constitutional democracy that the American political system is based upon can be found expressed in such fundamental American documents as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution including the Bill of Rights, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the Federalist Papers, and Antifederalist writings.  Other documents which express and elaborate upon the values and principles of the founding documents include the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail, and landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions.  Such fundamental expressions of American principles and values are important for us to understand.  It is from these ideals and thoughts that American democracy is shaped

Americans realize that the United States and its constitutional democracy are not utopian.   It has its shortcomings and there is room for improvement.  However, a constitutional democracy is a way of allowing the competing ideas, values, goals, and interests of the people, individually or in groups, to compete with one another in a peaceful manner.  A constitutional democracy affords its citizens means of reconciling their differences and their competing visions of truth without resorting to violence or oppressions.  Constitutional democracy is a limited government, where powers governing the people are shared at the national, state, and local levels.  The founding documents saw this complex system as a means of limiting the power of government and placing in the hands of the people numerous opportunities to participate in their own governance.  This system helps us hold our governments accountable, and helps to ensure the protection of the rights of individuals.

America’s Presence on the World StageThe United States exists in a global community.  We are part of an interconnected world in whose development we play an important role.  America’s political democracy has a profound influence abroad.  Our democratic ideals and the benefits of its open society have drawn the attention and inspired the hopes of people worldwide.  And just as the ideas expressed in the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the U.S. Constitution, and other fundamental expressions of American principles and values has a profound influence abroad, we must also remember that America and its citizens have been deeply influenced by the institutions and practices of other countries and the cultures of other peoples as well.

We need, as a minimum, to acquire basic knowledge of the relationship of the Unites States to other nations and to world affairs.  Citizens need to make judgments about the role of the United States in the world today and what course American foreign policy should take.  This means we need to understand the major elements of inter-national relations and how world affairs affect our own lives, and the security and well being of our communities, states, and nation.

OWN IT, FEEL IT, LIVE IT, LOVE IT

OWN IT

Sounds daunting, but it’s not.  We’ve been acquiring an understanding of American democracy while in grade school through high school.  The seeds of successful citizenship have been planted in us all our lives.

  • We understand that citizenship in this American constitutional democracy differs from membership in authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.
  • We understand that each citizen is a full and equal member of a self-governing community.
  • We understand that each citizen has fundamental rights.
  • We understand that each citizen is entrusted with responsibilities and must carry out those responsibilities.

Just as we are responsible in our civil society to cleanup after ourselves, drive safely and be courteous, we also know that we are responsible to make certain that the rights of other individuals are respected.  It’s also a fundamental responsibility of citizens to make certain that government serves the purposes for which it was created and does not abuse the power that the people have delegated to it.   The Declaration of Independence, for example, proclaims the primary purpose of government: “That to secure these Rights (Life, Liberty, ad the Pursuit of Happiness) governments are instituted among Men.”   And, the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution says that the purposes of government are to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty.”  We as citizens strive to hold our government accountable to these purposes it was created to serve.

FEEL IT

We need to be unafraid and rather fearless and fierce to

  • continually expand our intellectual and participatory skills, and
  • work tirelessly to improve our public and private character traits.

Our private character traits include becoming an independent member of society; assuming the personal, political, and economic responsibilities of a citizen; and respecting individual worth and human dignity.

Our public character traits include participating in civic affairs in an informed, thoughtful and effective manner; and promoting the healthy functioning of American constitutional democracy.

Sometimes these traits of public and private character are referred to as civic dispositions.  We must all understand the role and importance of these civic dispositions in our system.  We have to be considerate of the rights and interests of others, and of participating in civic affairs in an informed, thoughtful and civil manner.

LIVE IT

Our learning and applying civic knowledge and skills is influenced all the time: at home, social interaction among friends, relatives, members of the community, co-workers, neighbors, television, online media, radio, and even the entertainment programs we choose to watch.  All of these life contexts provide arenas in which our civic knowledge is acquired, civic skills are used, and civic traits of public and private character are applied.  It’s where we learn about rules, accepted behaviors, and basic democratic and constitutional principles and values.  And, we also recognize how deeply influenced we are by the institutions and practices of other countries and the cultures of other peoples.

LOVE IT

Although some would argue that in general, civil society is on the decline in America, I see it more as something each one of us can work on improving.  As individuals, as we each enjoy participating as citizens in this constitutional democracy, our lives will be richer.   It provides new meaning in our lives: to grow our understanding of American constitutional democracy and renewed purpose in our lives: to live responsibly, increasing our knowledge, intellectual and participatory skills.

We’ll own it – the role of governments and the relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affairs; understanding fundamental principles that provides the basis for a reasoned commitment to the ideals, values, and principles of American constitutional democracy.

We’ll feel it – the impact of the various levels of government on our daily lives, the lives of our communities, the welfare of the nation as a whole, and world affairs.

We’ll live it – read, develop our intellectual skills, make informed judgments about the role of governments, seek diverse information sources, engage in many participatory opportunities to be involved in government in addition to elections, campaigns, and voting.  We’ll exhibit civic dispositions by thoughtfully participating in public affairs, and civic life—traits such as public spiritedness, civility, and respect for law, critical mindedness, and a willingness to listen negotiate, and compromise are indispensable for the nation’s well-being

We’ll love it – be filled with joy and happiness as we attain individual and public goals, hand-in-hand with participation in political life.  We’ll unabashedly declare that as participating citizens, we are maintaining and improving our American constitutional democracy that is dependent on us to be informed, effective, and responsible.

Back to the Basics – Civics 1A

Lately I’ve been talking to people who are so busy just making it through the day.  And I understand.  Just to keep up with the daily basic needs of food, shelter and clothing can be daunting.  Yet now is not the time to forget our civic responsibility.

So many people have asked me to simply tell them what to do.  Well, after some research in the area of civic education, I offer the following for your consideration and action.

CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY  1A

Some say the three basic components to the well-being of American constitutional democracy are

1.) knowledge,

2.) intellectual and participatory skills, and

3.) Civic dispositions.

Knowledge Component

As we progress through life, our knowledge of the issues should deepen.  We are expected –by the time we are of the age to vote and with each passing year– to have a greater understanding of topics posed by these five questions:

1.  What are civic life, politics, and government?

2.  What are the foundations of the American political system?

3.  How does the government established by the Constitution embody the purposes, values, and principles of American democracy?

4.  What is the relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affair?

5.  What are the roles of citizens in American democracy?

I’ll admit I’ve never thought through these types of questions in a purposeful way before.  It’s quite a thought provoking exercise.  I find its fun to do with friends and especially school age students.  If you have children, ask them these questions.  It quite possible they may surprise you and have some pretty insightful answers, especially since schools include civic education in the curriculum.

Intellectual and Participatory Skills Component

This component involves the use of knowledge to think and act effectively and in a reasoned manner in response to the challenges of civic life in a constitutional democracy.  As citizens become more comfortable using these skills, they can identify, describe, explain, and analyze information and arguments, and evaluate, take, and defend positions on public policies.  When working with others, citizens can monitor and influence public and civic life by clearly articulating ideas and interest, building coalitions, seeking consensus, negotiating compromise, and managing conflict.

Civic Dispositions

This is a kinda fancy way of saying how the individual sees himself or herself within the democracy:  what are the rights and responsibilities of individuals in society and to the advancement of the ideals of the political community and civil society.  An example is like the individual’s willingness to become an independent member of society; respect individual worth and human dignity; assume the personal, political, and economic responsibilities of a citizen; abide by the “rules of the game,” such as accepting the legitimate decisions of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority; participate in civic affairs in an informed, thoughtful, and effective manner; and promote the healthy functioning of American constitutional democracy.

That said, I keep coming back to the question I often get from people when I talk to them about civic engagement: Why should you care about civic life, politics, and government?  My best answer is that if we understand civic life, politics, government, and civil society, we can make informed judgments about what government should and should not do, how we are to live our lives together, and how we can support the proper use of authority or combat the abuse of political power.

So…what is civic life, politics, and government in American constitutional democracy?

I’ve come to understand that our private (or personal) life is devoted to the pursuit of private and personal satisfactions, while in contrast our civic life is focused on concern with the affairs of the community and nation.  All our time and attention must not be focused only on private concerns.  We have a responsibility to devote time to the public affairs of the community and nation.

Politics is the process by which people reach collective decisions that are generally regarded as binding and enforced as common policy.  Increasingly, this political process is becoming filled with misinformation, misdirection and some say outright lies, making it difficult for the average person to reach sound collective decisions.  Some elected officials in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have even said that they will “not compromise” meaning it’s their way or no way, cutting off reasoned discussion of issues, making it difficult to reach a collective decisions.

Government is often described as the formal institutions and processes of a politically organized society with authority to make, enforce, and interpret law, and other binding rules about matters of common interest and concern, such as society’s order, security, and prosperity.  The term government also refers to the group of people, acting in formal political institutions at national, state, and local levels, who exercise decision-making power or enforce laws and regulations.  Some parts of government, such as Congress, state legislatures, and city councils make laws; other parts, including federal, state and local agencies such as health authorities and police, enforce laws; and still others, such as federal and state courts, interpret laws, and other rules.

Civil society refers to voluntary non-governmental political, social, and economic activity.  Among the many non-governmental actors who make up civil society are groups such as parent-teacher and professional associations, multi-national corporations and small businesses, labor unions, public charities, religious organizations, and youth groups.  The governmental and non-governmental activities sometimes overlap.  One of the responsibilities of citizens is to distinguish the appropriate and inappropriate influence of one upon the other.

Now is always the time to reflect on how we’ve doing.  Could we allot more time in our day, perhaps 15, 30 or more minutes, to expand and deepen our knowledge and understanding of civic life, politics and government?   I’ve found it’s worth the attention.  My life has greatly increased in joy, amusement and happiness.  I own it, feel it, live it and love it!

Join me on this continuous journey.  Civics 1B is coming soon!

–the Educating Gossip

Debate on Long-Term Assisted Care Insurance Part 2

On February 1, 2012, at 7:05 p.m. the U.S. House of Representatives members voted to repeal a part of the 2010 health care law, the CLASS Act that provides long-term health care services. In October, the Obama administration said that it would not implement this portion of the law.  The bill was sent to the Senate for consideration.

America is about empathy and responsibility: people caring both for themselves and for one another, and acting responsibly on that sense of care. When I hear otherwise, I wonder if the speaker really understands and wants this vision of America. There is certainly room in America for those who can afford it to purchase long-term assisted care insurance. And they are free to do so. The real question here is: What about those Americans who can not afford to purchase long-term assisted care insurance? And, we’re talking about the majority of Americans – hundreds of millions of people.
American democracy has two roles: protection and empowerment for all its citizens. It’s a myth only recently created in American that people make it on their own. In fact, nobody makes it on his or her own. Yes, the individual is responsible to pursue happiness, and in doing so, meets countless individuals who have made contributions to their success.
Your Exercise
Own It: What are your moral values when it comes to others in our society? Whose ideas in this debate do you identify with most?
Feel It: How do these values make you feel? (Review the list of emotions on this blog site)
Live It: Contact your Senator(s); share your experience with long-term assisted care insurance; and let them know what you value in the life of aging adult living in America.
Love It: Be happy about your contributions to the debate. Tell six other friends about this site, the CSPAN video and your hope for America.

Philosophy 1A- To Whom Do We Owe a Duty of Care?

Debate on Long-Term Assisted Care Insurance

On February 1, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives members debated a bill to repeal a part of the 2010 health care law, the CLASS Act that provides long-term health care services. In October, the Obama administration said that it would not implement this portion of the law.  You can read more at CSPAN.org. Read More

Everyone should enjoy listening to this debate.  It’s an easily accessible discussion in basic philosophy.  And, it is discussed by some House members from a conservative strict moral values perspective, and by other House members from a progressive affectionate care and attention moral values perspective.

As you read, listen or view the debate, see if you can pick out which moral values perspective each speaker is “Owning It.”  How does it make you feel when you hear the moral value perspective?  For anyone who has tried to contract  for long-term care insurance, they will tell you the coverage is limited, the insurance premium costs are high, and there is no certainty that the company will be economically stable to pay benefits by the time coverage is needed.

Your Exercise

Own It:  What are your moral values when it comes to others in our society?  Whose ideas in this debate do you identify with most?

Feel It:  How do these values make you feel? (Review the list of emotions on this blog site)

Live It:  Contact your House of Representatives member(s);  share your experience with long-term assisted care insurance; and let them know what you value in the life of aging adult living in America.

Love It:  Be happy about your contributions to the debate.  Tell six other friends about this site, the CSPAN video and your hope for America.


Debate on Long-Term Assisted Care Insurance

Jobs, Industry, and Cantankerous Old Men

The title was so catchy, I couldn’t resist reading this essay by Christopher Ketchem at Truthdig.  Two points caught my attention:

“I’ve been thinking recently of another old man, a friend of the family named A.J. Centola, who went homeless a few years back… A.J. and I used to sit around gabbing on afternoons, walking around the old neighborhood, Carroll Gardens, where he grew up during the last Great War, [with]… merchant marines in boardinghouses, and dockworkers, ironworkers, grocers, and freelance laborers like him.”

 

 

“…A.J. said one day. “…You have one class now in Carroll Gardens, the mono-class of the rich. No industry, no trades, no jobs for the average person to pull himself up. Now it’s all restaurants on Court Street that the old-timers can’t afford. People live their whole lives in the same place, and then this is not their place.” 

 Christopher Ketcham: God Bless Cantankerous Old Men – Essay – Truthdig

What struck me was the idea that there were jobs in the neighborhood:  diverse jobs in industry (ironworkers), trades (grocers) and manual labor that paid good enough to raise a family on (merchant marines, dockworkers).  As both Robert Reich and John Taylor spoke to on PBS Newshour today, the principle problem is jobs and low economic growth.

If Americans want to get serious about increased jobs that pay wages sufficient to grow and build a middle class, we’re going to need industry, trades, skilled and manual labor sectors.  I can’t imagine a highly industrial America.   But its clear jobs will have to come in many different forms, to fit different worker skills. 

It won’t be easy, but I’m confident adjustments will be made by government so that capitalism again advances the interests of the people.  Gainful employment is at the top of everyone’s list.

 

Economy at Risk with short-term deal on debt

Oooh..there are groups wanting citizens to be active in this debt-ceiling theatrical production.  What fun and opportunity to have your voice heard.  I’m filled with excitement and hope.  What a terrific opportunity for folks to separate political theatre from actual governing.  For example, I stumbled upon this link

Tell Boehner: Do Your Job
Sign up & Tell Boehner – “It’s Time
to Compromise On The Debt Celing!”
www.DSCC.org/Boehner-Do-Your-Job New Window

I’m sure there are others on all sides of the political belief spectrum.  Point is,  “Whatcha doin’?” Are you getting involved, gathering information about this issue,  talking to those who share your beliefs and those who do not, owning your beliefs;  taking time to really let yourself feel the emotions about the political theatre versus  the budget policy?  And then doing something about it?  Own It, Feel It, Live It, Love It.

There are so many places to get started.   The reality is that the debt ceiling is being used as political theatre for back-room deals.  Meanwhile, the Nation is facing some serious negative outcomes if the debt ceiling is not raised and the government is not transparent about the budget.

For example, at CBS News reports:

The first is market stability – the perilous nature of the current talks have spooked rating agencies which are threatening to downgrade the U.S. credit rating, which would spike interest rates, making it harder and more expensive for everyone to borrow money and pay back loans, especially the federal government. Preventing that possibility for as long as possible is a good thing. Stability in knowing that Washington won’t be going through another debt debate again soon will help calm the market and investors.

(Credit: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The White House reiterated its opposition today, saying that “a short-term extension could cause our country’s credit rating to be downgraded, causing harm to our economy and causing every American to pay higher credit cards rates and more for home and car loans.”

A close second reason: Simply not having to go through this again. The morass that has overwhelmed Washington looks bad for all sides, and shows that the federal government is not functioning well. The president believes that going through this debate for a second time in the near future would be a futile exercise, made even more difficult by the fact of 2012 being an election year.

And third? Yes, politics. Keeping the debt and spending issue away off the front pages and out of the election season will be a good thing for the White House, just as much as getting a big debt deal done would help show that President Obama is serious about getting the nation’s financial health in order.

While the president may wish to avoid the politics of another debt ceiling increase until after the next election, the White House is hoping that stability in the debt issue will take away one nugget of uncertainty that could be dragging down the economy. With certainty in the markets, their hope is that the economic recovery could get back on track. They fear going through another debate like this wouldn’t help.

“What we’re not going to do is to continue to play games and string this along for another eight, nine months, and then have to go through this whole exercise all over again. That we’re not going to do,” said the president, optimistically.

After Republicans backed out of the latest rounds of talks, an angry president charged them with going for a short term goal to play politics with the debt issue.

“How serious are you actually about debt and deficit reduction? Or do you simply want it as a campaign ploy going into the next election?” he said Friday night.

via Why Obama wants to avoid short-term deal on debt – Political Hotsheet – CBS News.

 

The Educating Gossip™ wants to know:   “Whatcha doin’?”

Political Theatre: Debt Ceiling and Back Room Deals

Oh joy!  I like to follow the headlines and separate the political theatre from the national policy that’s at stake.

The political theatre behind the debt ceiling theatrical production currently playing for the American public is political posturing.  We should all ask our selves: Do we want government that plays political games behind the “debt ceiling,” or do we want government to get to the business of raising revenue, cutting spending (including international “conflicts”), improving infra-structure, restoring financial market protections, etc.?

Me, I say, cut the comedy; get to the business of governing.  And, not through back room “debt ceiling” deals.  We want to know exactly who is asking for what concessions, what are going to be the costs, upsides, downsides, trade offs, etc….and would it be too much to ask for a national discussion or conversation about these domestic policies?

Playbill for the Debt Ceiling Production:  the excerpt below  is all you need to know about the debt ceiling.

The debt ceiling is a legal cap on the amount of money the U.S. Treasury can borrow to fund existing government functions. It essentially authorizes the Treasury to borrow the money necessary to pay the bills incurred by the federal government.

Where it came from: Before 1917, Congress authorized the Treasury to issue bonds for specific purposes. But that meant approving every bond separately. To fund World War I, Congress decided to give the Treasury more latitude by instituting caps on how much it could borrow through each type of bond, rather than forcing it to get every new bond approved separately. In 1939, this was changed so that most bonds were bound by the same limit, effectively creating the general debt ceiling we have today.

How it has worked: The debt ceiling has traditionally been raised as a matter of course whenever Congress passes spending bills requiring more borrowing, though the opposition party has often voted against increases to signal its opposition to the majority’s deficit spending. Between 1940 and 2010, we have increased the debt limit more than 70 times, and from 1979 to 1995, a House rule proposed by Rep. Dick Gephardt made increases automatic by raising the ceiling whenever new spending is approved. The new Republican majority repealed this rule in 1995 to use raising the debt ceiling as leverage in getting President Clinton to agree to spending cuts.

Why it’s an issue now: Currently, the debt limit is set at $14.3 trillion. Around Aug. 2, the Treasury will exhaust that borrowing authority. Because spending currently exceeds revenues by almost 45 percent, if that happens, we will either have to default on our debt or stop funding a substantial portion of the government. Congress could simply choose to raise the debt ceiling, but like the 1995 House GOP, the 2011 House GOP is insisting that it will not increase the debt ceiling without large spending cuts from President Barack Obama.

Do we need a debt ceiling? Strictly speaking, no. The debt ceiling is unique to America. In other countries, when the legislature passes a law, the Treasury is given automatic authority to carry it out. A number of former Treasury secretaries have said it should be abolished, including Larry Summers, who said, “I think that given that Congress has to approve all spending and all tax changes, there is not much logic to the debt ceiling.”

Does the debt ceiling reduce deficits? In general, no. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office examined this issue and concluded that “setting a limit on the debt is an ineffective means of controlling deficits because the decisions that necessitate borrowing are made through other legislative actions. By the time an increase in the debt ceiling comes up for approval, it is too late to avoid paying the government’s pending bills without incurring serious negative consequences.”

Is the debt ceiling unconstitutional? A number of commentators have suggested that the 14th Amendment, which states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned,” renders the debt ceiling unconstitutional. Others have disagreed, saying the Constitution gives Congress the sole power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States.”

— The Washington Post

via Too late for a debt deal? | | The Bulletin.

“accidental activist” article Empowering Readers

Wow.  The previous post  (http://edugossip.com/?p=176) has tapped into the emotions of many readers, as reported by Oprah.com 

One reply by  Elizabeth7957 left on “OWN HOMEPAGE” was especially heartfelt:

“Thank you for posting this. This is the best letter I have read on here…. But reading your letter was as good as any of the shows I would have seen.

I worked as an underpaid social worker and donated heavily until I became disabled. I’ve been feeling powerless. As long as my computer lasts, I realize now that I can have some power and continue to contribute and make changes for the best.”

Thank you, Elizabeth.   

The Accidental Activist

I worked for many years in higher-education as a professor and as a fundraiser. The financial markets were rising, and so were transfers of wealth by generous individuals to nonprofit causes including education and hospitals. But by the close of the 1990’s and into the 2000’s, things began to change. The earnings of the middle class had been stagnate since the 1970’s, but now it was beginning to show in the decline of discretionary giving. And although wealthy individuals could and often made large donations, it was the middle class who made up the bulk of annual giving dollars. And they were on the decline big time. And then came the 2008 Great Recession.

 That’s when I realized that the economic world we once knew had shifted quite dramatically. Pointedly, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton came out with a big, bright red “Reset” button. There were and are still many who are profiting nicely during the ongoing economic crisis, but there are far more who are not. I realized the economic crisis is vastly different than the ups and downs of recession that we had known before. It is global: what happens in Greece has an impact in America; what happens in Japan has an impact in America.

So I began to look for a way to understand this “new normal.” And much to my surprise it was fun and easy. I found and watched terrific programs that helped me understand the policies, laws and regulations that were being discussed in the desire to balance what we want for ourselves and what we want to achieve together as a nation. The headlines began to make sense. I found individuals and groups who are having fun bringing together helpful information. Before, I downloaded apps that entertained but didn’t inform, now I download apps that keep track of Congressional voting and legislative bills under consideration. I comment on blogs that discuss the balance between our individual desire to have cheap goods and the social consequences of those decisions. Each day brings excitement and fulfillment as I recognize that I have a profound role to play as a citizen.

 I’m more joyful and content. I’m a participant in this democracy in ways that are meaningful and heard. It’s my key to happiness in these unprecedented times. With this new re-alignment in thinking, I’ve gained community and peace of mind. Now when folks ask me, “Whatcha doin’?” I say, “Participating in democracy and letting my voice be heard.” “Whatcha doin’?”

Feel Go(o)d Politics | Spirituality, Bias, and Civic Engagement

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