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September 4, 2003

Reinventing The Wheel

Alan Imhoff

How far down the slippery slope have we traveled since July 4, 1776? Founded under extremely stressful times and taking on the mightiest power bordering the Atlantic Ocean, 13 independent and sovereign colonies made a fateful decision to band together and stand up for what they felt was right.

E pluribus Unum, one out of many. This banding together for a common good was a trademark of what set us apart from all the rest of the world. Yet what made us prevail over almost 10 years of fighting today seems to have become the exact opposite. We seem to be fighting for ourselves rather than the common good.

Why is it that under our most basic principal of the majority rule, we have become a people insistent on the rule of one? Every exception needs to be catered to before a decision can be made. We craft wonderful phrases like, No Child Left Behind, and our understanding is that it has to be our child.

As we speed along the highways often ignoring the most basic "rules of the road," we justify our actions because we are in a hurry and besides; those rules of the road, aren't they for the other guy?

Often we as individuals think of every reason under the sun as to why something will not work, very seldom do we collectively seem to come together to see how to make things work. Just think about your last PTA meeting, a committee at your place of worship, let alone what you watch our public officials do on television.

What is the old phrase? If you want something done, ask a busy person. But as a society we have become mired down in paralysis of insuring we get "everyone's" opinion. Why? Don't we elect people to office who are supposedly well versed enough to represent us and make good decisions? Instead of being busy persons, our leaders seem to be acting more as consensus-builders hoping someone else will get it done.

Back in 1776 not only did our leaders put down and subscribe to some very important principals, for the most part they lived them. Yes, they argued. But the debates back then must have been eloquent to watch. The last eloquent speaker I had the privilege of listening to in person was Edward Everett Dirkson on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Where is that opportunity today to argue forcefully for your convictions using the power of the spoken word rather than the 30-second sound bite that more often than not attacks the opposition rather than tries to argue a position for something?

Back in 1776 the leaders from these 13 colonies closed their final sentence of the Declaration of Independence, ".we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." How many of us today would be willing to accept that pledge?

Today, we seem to have government at all levels telling us mostly what we cannot do, laws intended to improve our quality of life for everyone seem to be more focused on the "thou shall nots" instead of ".certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Have we consented so much that we have become irrelevant to the professional politician who only acknowledges us when it is time to vote again? Haven't you heard or encountered at least once, a politician or entrenched bureaucrat whose disdain for the average citizen manifested itself in a public gaffe, to put it politely.

What is so wrong with our form of government where honest debate and discussion have to be secured behind rules of executive privilege? Case in point, the recently released results from the secret meeting of the Board of County Commissioners to develop the Strategic Plan. A plan that according to what I have seen is nothing more than a compilation of already existing programs or task force reports waiting to be implemented. What is so secret about that?

If it was the concern of the commissioners that we should not hear their debate on the "thorough look at taxes and fees to identify new or enhanced revenues for needed infrastructure," I need only remind them this was done for them in 1988 and made part of the public record. So to paraphrase the commission president, "All we needed to do was dust off the old study and bring it up to date."

Is it time again? "That, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

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